US And France To Permit Fully Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Under current US safety rules, a motor vehicle must have traditional controls, like a steering wheel, mirrors, and foot pedals, before it is allowed to operate on public roads. 

But that could all change under a new plan released on this month by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that’s intended to open the floodgates for fully driverless cars. 

US Driverless

The department, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards” as applied to autonomous vehicles, the 80-page document reads. 

In particular, regulators say they will look to change those 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.”

The DOT also said it plans to "adapt the definitions of 'driver' and 'operator' to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may include an automated system."

With regard to trucks and buses in particular, regulators will "no longer assume" that the driver "is always a human," the agency said.

Changing these rules would pave the way for companies like Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors to release hundreds of thousands of fully automated vehicles on public roads. 

GM announced this week its plan to join forces with Honda to produce a purpose-built autonomous vehicle without traditional controls. 

“Automated Vehicles 3.0” is the third iteration of the federal government’s voluntary guidelines on the development and safe deployment of automated vehicle technology. 

And it puts a fine point on the pro-business, laissez-faire approach to self-driving cars that the federal government has been espousing for several years now.

French Driverless

The French government is supporting the development of self-driving cars, with the aim of deploying “highly automated” vehicles on public roads between 2020 and 2022.

France’s technology-minded president, Emmanuel Macron, appointed a senior official, Anne-Marie Idrac, to develop a national strategy for driverless mobility, including new laws, regulations for experiments and pilot projects, and cybersecurity and privacy issues.

The first legal proposals are expected by the end of this year and once approved will allow Level 3 and Level 4 passenger vehicles, driverless mass transit such as robotaxis, and automated delivery vehicles.

More than 50 autonomous-vehicle test projects have taken place in France since 2014, including robotaxis, buses and private vehicles. The government has made 40 million euros ($46 million) available to help subsidize new projects.

The Verge:        Automotive News Europe:

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