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March 11, 2022

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is rolling out a rule aimed at ensuring the safety of occupants in automated vehicles.
The final rule, which is expected to publish in the Federal Register in the coming days, updates the occupant protection Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to account for vehicles that do not have the traditional manual controls associated with a human driver.
“Through the 2020s, an important part of (the U.S. Department of Transportation’s) safety mission will be to ensure safety standards keep pace with the development of automated driving and driver assistance systems,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release. “This new rule is an important step, establishing robust safety standards for ADS-equipped vehicles.”
Current occupant protection standards were written for common, traditional vehicle features, including steering wheels and other manual controls. The rule updates the standards to clarify what is required of manufacturers when applying the standards to automated driving systems-equipped vehicles without traditional manual controls.
“As the driver changes from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep the humans safe remains the same and must be integrated from the beginning,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff said. “With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”
This rule, which will become effective 180 days after being published in the Federal Register, is part of NHTSA’s attempts to ensure the public’s safety as vehicle automation evolves. NHTSA is actively engaged in monitoring and overseeing the safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles.
In conjunction with the final rule, NHTSA is updating its webpage dedicated to building public understanding about automated driving systems. The page features an interactive infographic that explains the various levels of automation in a more user-friendly way. LL

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