General Motors has submitted a comment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraging the agency to establish new guidelines for autonomous vehicles that lack a steering wheel and gas/brake pedals.
NHTSA asked automotive manufacturers and other autonomous vehicle technology companies to submit comments regarding changing regulations to include specific framework for AVs. GM was among several that encouraged new rules for vehicles without a traditional steering wheel or brake and gas pedals in its comments, along with Google’s autonomous vehicle offshoot Alphabet.
“GM/Cruise supports NHTSA establishing new definitions that apply only to ADS-DVs (Automated Driving System Dedicated Vehicles) without manual controls,” the automaker’s comment said. “It would allow NHTSA to clearly delineate, where necessary, the requirements that apply to ADS-DV versus those that apply to traditional vehicles. Expanding upon this approach, NHTSA may want to consider creating a new series of FMVSS requirements that apply to vehicles operated by an ADS-DV without traditional controls.”
Put more simply, GM wants NHTSA to consider writing a new set of regulations that pertain to autonomous vehicles without controls, as this will allow the automaker to develop its self-driving cars with a specific framework in mind. Without the laws being written, it’s difficult for GM to properly proceed in the development of the vehicles, as it may begin to develop in a direction that is later deemed to fall outside of NHTSA regulations.
Comments like GM’s will be taken into consideration by NHTSA regulators as they write new rules pertaining to self-driving vehicles and AVs. In addition to Waymo and GM, Lyft also encouraged the safety agency to write new rules specifically for AVs without traditional controls, saying it should “remove regulatory barriers and modify [safety standards] that reference a human driver and/or assume some manual control element within the test procedure.”
As CNBC points out, however, not all who submitted comments to NHTSA were onboard with the idea of AVs that lack controls. The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group, said there “there is no demonstrable evidence” that AVs without controls “can safely operate on (and off) America’s roads.”
GM previously said it would launch a self-driving robotaxi service under Cruise before the end of 2019, which would be complete with AVs that had no steering wheel or pedals. The automaker later backtracked on the lofty plan, however, delaying the rollout of the service indefinitely and heading back to the drawing board with regard to its steering wheel-less Cruise AV prototype.