NHTSA is streamlining the review process to allow testing of autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals.
 - Photo courtesy of Waymo.

NHTSA is streamlining the review process to allow testing of autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals.

Photo courtesy of Waymo.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has cut one of its requirements in an effort to accelerate the review process for the deployment of autonomous vehicles without devices like brakes and steering wheels, Reuters reported.

Specifically, NHTSA will no longer need to determine if an automaker's petition is complete before presenting a summary for public comment. The agency said in a statement that the move should improve both the efficiency and transparency of the process as well as allow NHTSA to concentrate on the safety review.

Presently, automakers are required to meet close to 75 safety standards, notes Reuters. A good number of the standards are based on the assumption that a licensed driver would be able to take over and operate the vehicle — relying on traditional human controls.

However, automakers can request an exemption for as many as 2,500 vehicles provided those vehicles are at least as safe as existing vehicles.

The rules to date have bogged down the review and approval process. For example, in January, General Motors filed a petition with NHTSA asking for an exemption to utilize fully automated vehicles for a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019, reports Reuters. But the agency has not yet declared the GM petition complete due to the fact that the GM vehicles won't utilize human drivers.

On the other hand, in December, Waymo was able to launch a limited autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona with vehicles that include human controls. 

In other news, NHTSA also announced that it is seeking comments on the use and integration of vehicle communications technologies, which the agency believes could improve motor vehicle safety and support cooperative vehicle automation concepts, reports Reuters.

Although some Federal Communications Commission members want to use the 5.9Ghz spectrum for personal wireless communications, the U. S. Department of Transportation declared that it intends to "maintain the use of 5.9Ghz spectrum for transportation safety communications."

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