Within the US, you not want wing mirrors – if you’re a self-driving automobile

The National Highways and Transport Safety Authority (NHTSA) has published new rules that allow self-driving cars to bypass certain safety tests. It sounds alarming, but it’s not as bad as it first appears.

Late last week, the NHTSA released an update to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). This document defines what functions vehicles should have and the safety tests they should be subjected to, reports Autoblog.

The update now recognizes the changing nature of vehicles on our roads and recognizes self-driving cars that they may not have a steering wheel, pedals, or other components that are normally required for human operation. In some cases, self-driving vehicles do not even have room for human passengers, but previously had to meet the same standards for passenger cars.

With these new rules, developers can build leaner vehicles for special purposes, such as: B. Self-propelled delivery robots that do not contain unnecessary equipment. Also, developers do not need to subject driverless and passengerless vehicles to a safety check to determine how well protected human passengers are in the event of an accident.

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NHTSA spokesmen said they have taken steps to update the FMVSS guidelines so that outdated regulations don’t hinder the development of autonomous vehicles.

As Ars Technica points out, companies that develop autonomous vehicles for cargo only will benefit most from this change in regulations.

Companies like Nuro, who develop self-driving delivery robots, have had to add components like windshields and wing mirrors to their vehicles – even if they’re not needed at all – just because it’s required by law. Nuro has been granted a number of exemptions in the past, but it’s a bureaucratic headache that isn’t really needed.

It may sound alarming that vehicles on US roads are not meeting the same safety standards as current passenger cars. In reality, this will not affect the safety of self-driving vehicles as they must continue to protect pedestrians as much as they did before. If anything, this could make autonomous vehicles a little safer as they don’t need excess components just because regulations dictate.

The main difference is that autonomous cars and delivery robots do not need unnecessary features such as seat belts, airbags, and wing mirrors if all they have is grocery or online shopping supplies.

It is not entirely clear when these new directions will take effect. However, since they come into force 60 days after their publication in the federal register, we can expect the new rules in summer at the earliest.

The full update from the NHTSA can be read here.

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Published on January 18, 2021 – 08:47 UTC

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