NHTSA: Fully Automated Vehicles No Longer Require Human Controls

Have you ever wanted to sit back and relax while the car drives for you? Sometimes full automation would be amazing, especially on a long road trip where you've been driving for several hours on the same highway. A self-driving car is a perfect answer for anyone who likes to sleep on those trips. Since the inception of fully automated vehicles, they have required human controls and a conscious and ready human supervisor. However, NHTSA has ruled that (some) automated vehicles no longer require human controls.

Fully Automated Vehicles: Who Needs Humans?

According to Automotive News, U.S. regulators have issued a final ruling eliminating the need for automated vehicle makers to provide manual driving controls to meet crash standards. Safety standards of long ago created huge hurdles for automakers when developing automated vehicles. Any automated driving system still needed manual controls, mainly to comply with the legal safety code. However, last month a petition led by General Motors asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to build self-driving vehicles without human control.

Specifically, GM didn't want to put basic manual controls like steering wheels and brake pedals in vehicles. The revised rules assume vehicles “will still have a driver’s seat, steering wheel and associated steering column, or a single front outboard passenger seat. For vehicles designed to be steered solely by ADS, manual drive controls are logically unnecessary,” NHTSA said.

New technology, new rules

Tesla Model S is one of the fully automated self-driving vehicles that may stop requiring human controls in the future.

Self-driving cars were a futuristic pipe dream when these rules first appeared. It was like something out of The Jetsons when someone imagined fully automated vehicles. However, autonomous driving has been around for a while and the rules remain unchanged. These new rules were first proposed in March 2020, emphasizing that automated vehicles offer as much protection to occupants as human-controlled ones.

“As the driver transitions from person to machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep humans safe remains the same and must be incorporated from the start,” said Steven Cliff, Deputy Administrator of the NHTSA.

Although they don't need a driver, children are not allowed to sit in the driver's seat. Children are not protected when seated in the driver's seat. The regulations in force do not prevent the operation of automated vehicles with manual controls. Additionally, NHTSA said manufacturers will still need to apply to the agency for an exemption to sell vehicles without human control.

2022 fully automated vehicles

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According to AutoPilot Review, there are currently many vehicles capable of driving themselves. However, the level of range differs from car to car. Some can only keep speed and stay in a straight line, while others can take turns and more. The Tesla Model S is probably the most popular of the bunch. Each of these electric sedans comes with Tesla's AutoPilot self-driving assistance, but it will cost $8,000 for the full set of self-driving capabilities.

High-profile crashes are often linked to Tesla's automation. Many people view the ability to self-driving as dangerous. Well, wait until other automakers get the green light from NHTSA to stop needing brake pedals and steering wheels.

Fully automated models

  • Tesla Models S, Y, X and 3
  • GM – Cadillac CT6 and Escalade, Chevy Bolt
  • Audi A6, A8
  • BMW X5, 3 Series
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • Kia Telluride
  • Hyundai Sonata, Palisade
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class
  • Volvo XC90, XC60, XC40
  • Nissan Rogue, Leaf
  • Infiniti QX50

In conclusion, many modern vehicles use some form of automated driving. NHTSA only gave GM one chance to develop a vehicle without human control. NHTSA granted GM the capability after a petition and a lengthy decision process. However, NHTSA has explicitly stated that other automakers should seek an exemption from it in the future. Every production vehicle requires human controls. Solely for General Motors, NHTSA says fully automated vehicles no longer require human controls.