The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday finalized a rule that will allow cars devoid of a steering wheel and pedals to meet safety standards.
The rule updates the occupant protection Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to account for fully automated vehicles, paving the way for companies to sell or offer as a service vehicles without manual controls.
Specifically, the rule updates the standards to clarify what is required of manufacturers of self-driving vehicles. It comes six years after NHTSA first started allowing companies to test such vehicles in a limited capacity.
“As the driver changes from a person to a machine in [automated driving systems]-equipped vehicles, the need to keep the humans safe remains the same and must be integrated from the beginning,” Steven Cliff, NHTSA's deputy administrator, said in a statement. “With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”
Waymo has been offering a self-driving service to the public for several years, known as Waymo One. However, all the vehicles used by the Waymo One service feature manual controls.
Rival self-driving technology company Cruise is in the early stages of launching a self-driving taxi service to the public, and the company has already shown a shuttle devoid of manual controls. Cruise and main shareholder General Motors last month petitioned NHTSA for permission to offer a service with vehicles devoid of manual controls.