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NHTSA issues final rule to modernize autonomous vehicle safety standards

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a final rule to modernize numerous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and to clarify ambiguities in current occupant protection standards for vehicles equipped with automated driving systems that are designed without traditional manual driver controls.

The rule amends several crashworthiness regulations to clarify safety standards for automated vehicles equipped without manual driver controls. The rule also exempts automated vehicles designed never to carry any human occupants, including human drivers, from crashworthiness standards.

With more than 90% of serious crashes caused by driver error, it’s vital that we remove unnecessary barriers to technology that could help save lives. We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety.

—Deputy Administrator James Owens

The rule will not change existing occupant protection requirements for traditional vehicles with manual driver controls.

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