America Enacts Safety Standards for Autonomous Vehicles and Automated Vehicles


Automated and autonomous vehicles have been operating in a regulatory gap in much of the world. The technology has evolved far more quickly than law and this has left many questions regarding safety standards and liability unanswered. To datemuch of the regulation of the vehicles has centred on either prohibiting them on public roadways, heavily restricting their use, or ignoring the issues they raise.

 It appears that governments are now beginning to consider the new technology more carefully and in America they have begun to regulated them more closely.

The United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA) has ruled on autonomous and automated vehicles providing clarity on passenger safety in vehicles that are designed without traditional features like a driver’s seat or steering wheels.

At the beginning of March, the NHTSA updated rules for the safety requirements in vehicles that lack the traditional manual controls that human drivers use. It is a wide-ranging ruling that:

  • Changes the terminology in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to better reflect the layout of automated vehicles
  • Furthering efforts to ensure public safety as automation evolves

 The ruling builds on last year’s order that autonomous vehicle manufacturers report all crashes and previous orders that allow the public and local authorities to review submitted safety and AV testing data. Critics say this ruling is reactive. The industry is well developed globally and in North America but acknowledge that this is a good first step by regulators.

The regulation of vehicles has become increasingly complex as the old regulations were written for human-driven cars, but increasingly we have human-driven cars with some automated features (emergency braking, self-parking etc.), and some fully automated vehicles with a steering wheel and human driver, and increasingly there will be completed automated vehicles which are currently only used in very limited experiments to deliver goods like pizza, or to shuttle cargo at commercial facilities.

The NHSTA ruling also discusses the changes that manufacturers will have to make as a result of new and updated terminology. These changes include updating or installing safety features like:

  • Automated locking
  • Seat belt use throughout the interior
  • The use of sensors and cameras and switches to enforce the use of safety equipment
  • Airbag deployment and airbag suppression technology
  • Regulations specific to passenger buses and school buses

If you are interested to read the full Ruling you can find it here.  

If you or a family member have been injured in a car accident involving automated driving technology contact one of our experienced personal injury lawyers at Deutschmann Personal Injury Law 1.866.414.4878 today.

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