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NHTSA Considering Rolling Back Regulations on Mandatory Steering Wheels, Brake Pedals

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Mercedes-Benz Concept Car

The decidedly lounge-like interior of the Mercedes-Benz Concept Car
Photo: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG

Self-driving vehicles are increasingly moving out of the realm of science fiction and becoming an inevitable step forward in the evolution of the automotive industry. In order for autonomous vehicles to well and truly become a thing, however, regulation is necessary–both in terms of creation and elimination.

Automotive News reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is mulling over the regulations that currently prohibit vehicles that do not feature essential components including steering wheels and brake pedals.


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Per the “Report on DOT Significant Rulemakings,” posted to Transportation.gov:

The National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) seeks comments to identify any unnecessary regulatory barriers to Automated Safety Technologies, and for the testing and compliance certification of motor vehicles with unconventional automated vehicles designs, particularly those that are not equipped with controls for a human driver; e.g., steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedal. Further, NHTSA seeks comments on the research that would be required to remove such barriers. This action will inform subsequent steps in the regulatory process to amend Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) and other motor vehicle regulations in order to safely lay a path for innovative automated vehicle designs and technology.

The removal of components such as steering wheels and brake pedals is seen as being vital to the development of no-intervention self-driving vehicles, particularly those that will be manufactured to provide more of a lounge experience than that of a traditional driving experience.

In an effort to comply with established regulations, Ford, for example, is moving to patent removable steering wheel and brake pedal apparatuses. These regulations, Auto News notes, go back to the 1960s.

The NHTSA’s initiative was launched on September 20th, which followed the Transportation Department’s released voluntary safety guidelines for autonomous vehicle developers. Comment from developers and automakers on the matter will be collected until January 31st, 2018.


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News Sources: Automotive News (subscription required), Transportation.gov