IIHS Responds to General Motors Request to Waive Safety RequirementsJune 24, 2019
General Motors (GM) sent a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), requesting that the agency waive certain safety requirements so that they could deploy a fleet of driverless cars that will be used for ridesharing. The petition argues that close to 95 percent of car accidents are caused by human error and that automatic driving systems (ADS) would essentially eliminate human error. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) executive vice president and chief research officer said that GM should not be exempt from certain safety requirements, simply so they can deploy the vehicles sooner.
The petition that GM sent to the NHTSA requested a temporary exemption so that they could deploy their fourth generation Cruise AV vehicles that are not equipped with traditional vehicle controls, including a steering wheel, pedals, and mirrors. GM is seeking these exemptions to advance safety and low-emission technology. The CEO of Cruise Automation said that while a car without a steering wheel is not going to have a steering wheel airbag, GM can meet the safety standards in new and different ways. For example, they can install a side airbag that meets the safety standard of the steering wheel airbag.
Should Self-Driving Car Technology Replace Human Drivers?
However, comments do not fully address the significance of the exemption, which is that GM plans to manufacture a vehicle in which human occupants will not have access to the controls. That is because the ADS replaces the human driver, so there is no need for features like steering wheels, brake pedals, accelerator pedals, and rearview mirrors that require human interface.
The more important issue that should be reviewed in the petition is whether we should completely prevent human intervention by removing all traditional manual controls from the vehicle. GM makes the argument that human error is responsible for most car accidents, and by replacing human drivers, ADS eliminates human error. GM also gave the following two reasons as to why they should be exempt from certain safety regulations, including:
- It would facilitate the development of a new motor vehicle safety feature, thereby providing a level of safety similar to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
- It would facilitate the development of a low-emission vehicle without compromising the safety performance of the vehicle.
IIHS reportedly objected to GM’s specific request to be exempt from needing high beams because cameras used for certain GM functions depend on light. It was also stated that GM’s vehicles should be designed so that all passengers be belted before the trip begins.
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