The federal government must rewrite the safety rules for the car industry so that self-driving car manufacturers can use vehicles without traditional controls such as steering wheels and pedals, according to public comments submitted by top automotive and technology companies.
And they have to get over it quickly.
"We urge [the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration] to proceed quickly to remove the legal barriers that the agency has identified," wrote David Quinalty, head of federal policy and government affairs at Waymo, in a letter that was placed online on Thursday.
The letter is a response to a request for public comment from the NHTSA on a proposal made last May to change the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, a list of 75 rules that car manufacturers must comply with before entering cars. sell customers. Currently those rules state that cars must have controls such as a steering wheel and pedals.
But self-driving cars may not need these controls, advocates say, and the rules can hinder the technology being released on a large scale. Waymo and others such as Cruise, the self-driving division of GM, and Ford inevitably hope to release tens of thousands of cars without driver without human service. Only by completely cutting people out of the equation can an autonomous vehicle work safely, these companies say. And NHTSA is considering rewriting the rules so that self-driving car companies such as Waymo can release cars without those functions.
Waymo's letter is full of language such as "fast", "must move fast" and "urges NHTSA not to wait" for the completion of other third-party research into autonomous technology. The message it sends is one of urgency: the government must drop everything and the damn rules are already changing.
If this seems a bit like putting the cart for the self-driving horse in front of you, you are not alone. Most self-driving car companies now insist that their vehicles should be able to work for years, if not decades, safely without human supervision. Cruise recently postponed the expected launch of a robotic taxi service in San Francisco after the end of 2019. Waymo, seen as the most advanced technology, drives most vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel who can take control if the situation demands it.
Security proponents urge NHTSA to take the time to deliberate on these changes. For example, the Center for Car Safety "asks [s]" for NHTSA's decision to give priority to these rule changes, given that self-driving cars are still in their infancy and probably decades away are of widespread practical use. "
The National Automobile Dealers Association, meanwhile, disputes the use of the term "barriers" to describe current safety standards and argues that self-driving cars should remain "to also allow human control."
Cruise meanwhile called on NHTSA to "steer this critical dialogue with a sense of urgency, so that the necessary regulatory evolution keeps pace with advancing technology." need.
But despite these calls for urgency, the federal government is usually not known for its capacity for rapid change. According to Reuters, it could cost the agency until at least 2025 to complete a comprehensive rewrite of different safety standards.
Meanwhile, Congress continues to consider legislation that could open the door even further for more self-driving cars to hit the road. The first attempt got stuck after several Democratic senators put it on hold, with reference to security issues. A more recent attempt to attach the bill to the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration was defeated. Now lawmakers are trying to put together a new bill that, according to all bills, will look a lot like the original one.