Waymo Urges US to 'Promptly' Remove Barriers to Self-Driving Cars

Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent Alphabet, on Thursday urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to “promptly” remove regulatory barriers for cars without steering wheels and brake pedals.

Automakers must currently meet nearly 75 auto safety standards for self-driving cars, many of them written under the assumption that a licensed driver is in command of the vehicle using traditional controls.

NHTSA has been grappling for more than three years with how to address those requirements, while filings from major companies this week shed light on complex issues surrounding testing, acquiring and evaluating fully self-driving vehicles.

“NHTSA should move promptly to remove barriers while ensuring safety,” Waymo said in a letter posted on Thursday after the auto safety agency sought public comment in May “on the removal of unnecessary regulatory barriers to the safe introduction of automated driving systems.”

NHTSA should first work on addressing those safety standards that assume a human is behind the wheel before revising rules to address alternative seating configurations, Waymo said.

That will “enable the timely deployment” of vehicles without manual controls, Waymo added.

General Motors in its comments said “it is imperative that NHTSA continue to drive this critical dialogue with a sense of urgency so that the necessary regulatory evolution keeps pace with advancing technology.