Look, Ma – No Hands! NHTSA Drops Steering Wheel Rule

Look, Ma – No Hands! NHTSA Drops Steering Wheel Rule

In a win for robotaxi startups everywhere, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has officially changed a long-standing rule requiring driver controls in a vehicle. Without it, the door is open for truly driverless cars.

Automakers and tech companies have faced significant regulatory hurdles in deploying automated driving system (ADS) vehicles without human controls because of NHTSA safety standards written decades ago assuming that people are necessarily in control of a vehicle.

In 1982? That was true. In 2022? That’s not as obvious as it once was, and the old rule – that a car, “will always have a driver’s seat, a steering wheel and accompanying steering column, or just one front outboard passenger seating position.” – is just that: old.


Self-driving Selfie


“For vehicles designed to be solely operated by an ADS, manually operated driving controls are logically unnecessary,” read a statement from NHTSA Deputy Administrator, Steven Cliff. “As the driver changes from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep the humans safe remains the same and must be integrated from the beginning.”

While dropping the steering wheel is the big news, there are other rule changes that are more subtle. For example, the NHTSA’s rules allow children to occupy what is traditionally known as the “driver’s” position, and may not require an “adult” to be in the vehicle at all.

What that means, from a societal perspective, is anyone’s guess – but we can’t wait to send the kids to the grandparents’ without having to wrestle traffic on the way back. What about you guys? How would tech like this change your life? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.



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