The US government is considering a rewrite of US vehicle safety rules in a bid to facilitate the adoption of self-driving vehicles.
In the process, rules requiring vehicles to have steering wheels, pedals and mirrors could be curtailed to help cut the cost of producing fully self-driving vehicles. However, such rules would come well in advance of technological developments.
That's all according to a document published yesterday that indicates that the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) "intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards".
US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, unveiling the document, claimed that self-driving vehicles could help to radically reduce road fatalities and injuries, with more than 37,000 people in the US killed in crashes in 2017.
The NHTSA has called for comments on the "proposed changes to particular safety standards to accommodate automated vehicle technologies" and "the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards that are relevant only when human drivers are present".
Currently, US vehicle safety standards are written (like such standards everywhere else in the world) with the assumption that a human driver will be in charge of the vehicle.
While a fully self-driving car would not need anyone in charge, such a scenario might be further off than the hype around autonomous vehicles has suggested - but a number of companies are nevertheless pushing forward.
In January, according to Reuters, General Motors filed a petition to seek exemption from current rules, to enable it to use vehicles without steering wheels and other controls commonly found in vehicles today as part of a plan to deploy a new ride-sharing fleet, which is planned for next year.
Likewise, Google's Waymo self-driving unit is also planning a driverless, autonomous ride-hailing service, but currently has no plans to remove controls just yet.
The document has been released at the same time as the NHTSA plans a new Automated Driving Systems (ADS) pilot project, initially seeking public and industry input.
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