Waymo Urges U.S. to Update Regs for Autonomous Vehicles

Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo autonomous vehicle unit is the latest to ask U.S. safety officials to drop regulations that require even totally robotic cars to be equipped with controls for human drivers.

Carmakers have been petitioning NHTSA for nearly three years to exempt completely autonomous vehicles from dozens of safety standards that assume a human is operating the vehicle. Developers point out that 100% automated vehicles don’t need a steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, or even windshield wipers and headlights.

Manufacturers concede that it could take NHTSA until at least 2025 to overhaul its safety standards to accommodate robotic vehicles, Reuters reports. Even more time may be necessary to develop crash standards for seating positions in cars that don’t require a forward-facing driver.

Reuters says NHTSA also is struggling to figure out how to determine the safety of robotic cars. At the same time carmakers fret that the development of advanced technologies for self-driving cars is being hampered by a slow-moving regulatory environment.

Reuters notes that Honda and Lyft have suggested that NHTSA might ease the crunch by creating a new class of standards just for autonomous vehicles.