NHTSA to Propose New Self-Driving Vehicle Regulations this Fall: Report

Currently, the NHTSA only allows a maximum of 2,500 driverless vehicles on U.S. roads, but that is expected to change quickly in the coming years

Federal traffic safety experts are preparing to introduce new regulations for self-driving vehicles, an emerging technology which many hope will eventually make U.S. roadways safer, but have been linked to hundreds of auto accidents, as manufacturers try to perfect the technology.

According to a recent report by Automotive News (subscription required), the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Ann Carlson, has announced that the agency intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking this fall on self-driving vehicle regulations, known as the ADS-Equipped Vehicle Safety, Transparency, and Evaluation Program (AV-STEP). Carlson made the statements last week at the Automated Road Transportation Symposium.

The announcement follows a report by the NHTSA released last month, which found that driver-assist technologies were involved in nearly 400 auto accidents between July 1, 2021 and May 15, 2022. Most of those accidents involved vehicles manufactured by Tesla, which accounts for the bulk of U.S. vehicles equipped with autopilot or driver-assistance technology.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first announced its plans for AV-STEP in a supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking (SANPRM) issued in February. The public comment period on that notice ended on March 20.

The new AV-STEP rules would remove current limits on the maximum number of vehicles allowed to use advanced driving systems, including fully self-driving vehicles, on U.S. roads. This would likely significantly increase the number of driverless vehicles sold by auto manufacturers nationwide.

The NHTSA currently only allows 2,500 driverless vehicles to operate on U.S. roads. However, it is widely expected that number will increase dramatically over the next few years.

Some automakers are waiting for the new rules before they ramp up production on autonomous cars. General Motors is already seeking an exemption to the limit so that it can begin mass-producing its Cruise Origin robotaxi autonomous vehicle.

In return, the NHTSA is calling for companies that utilize the technology in their vehicles to give the agency access to data collected by those vehicles, so that it can better understand how automated driving technology affects traffic safety and refine its regulations in the future.


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