U.S. exempts self-driving vehicles from some crash standards

The outgoing Trump administration issued new rules Thursday that would allow manufacturers of automated vehicles to bypass crash standards required of conventional vehicles, cutting production costs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the new rules would exempt from certain crash standards automated vehicles that are designed to carry only goods, not people. The new rules, issued after months of deliberation, would also give a freer hand to manufacturers of passenger-carrying autonomous vehicles to design vehicles without standard controls, such as steering wheels and brake pedals.

“We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety,” Deputy NHTSA Administrator James Owens said in a statement.

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The auto and technology industries have long pressed the NHTSA to modify existing vehicle safety standards that worked to force up the cost of automated cars and trucks.

NHTSA estimated its rule would save automated vehicle manufacturers up to $5.8 billion in the year 2050, or about $995 a vehicle based on an estimated production of 5.8 million vehicles.