ALL NEWS

US lets autonomous vehicle bypass human-driver safety rules

Feb 7, 2020, 5:34 AM
This undated image provided by Nuro in February 2020 shows their self-driving vehicle "R2" carrying...
This undated image provided by Nuro in February 2020 shows their self-driving vehicle "R2" carrying bags of groceries. On Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted temporary approval for Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro to the a low-speed autonomous delivery vehicle, without side and rear-view mirrors and other safety provisions required of vehicles driven by humans. (Nuro via AP)
(Nuro via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — For the first time, the U.S. government’s highway safety agency has approved a company’s request to deploy a self-driving vehicle that doesn’t need to meet the same federal safety standards for cars and trucks driven by humans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted temporary approval for Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro to run low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles that were designed without any accommodations for human drivers. That means no side and rear-view mirrors, windshield wipers, steering wheels or brake pedals.

The vehicles previously were subject to federal standards for low-speed vehicles that travel under 25 miles per hour. Those didn’t need to have steering wheels, brake pedals or human backup drivers, but were required to have windshield wipers, backup camera displays and mirrors. Nuro’s battery-powered vehicles can be monitored and controlled remotely by a human operator, if needed.

The approval is the first sign that NHTSA is moving from abstract statements and voluntary standards governing autonomous vehicles to actual regulation, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies vehicle automation. It’s a signal that the agency, which has stated publicly that it doesn’t want to stand in the way of the new technology, is likely to approve more vehicles, he said.

“This is the first time that the agency said ‘yes we approve this vehicle that does not meet traditional driver-oriented standards,’” he said. “That’s a big step because it makes it much more concrete, more real for the agency and really for the public.”

Under the temporary approval, Nuro will have to make real-time safety reports to the agency. Nuro also will have to hold regular meetings with the agency and reach out to the community in areas where the vehicles will travel.

“NHTSA is dedicated to facilitating the safe testing and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies, including innovative vehicle designs, which hold great promise for future safety improvements. As always, we will not hesitate to use defect authority to protect public safety as necessary,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens.

The agency will use enforcement powers if it finds any evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety, the statement said.

In December Nuro announced plans to use its low-speed delivery vehicles in partnership with Walmart to deliver groceries to customers in Houston. The service was to start early this year and use the vehicles as well as automated Toyota Prius hybrid cars. Nuro also was testing deliveries with Kroger in Arizona and Houston.

Nuro, of Mountain View, California, announced new version of its autonmated delivery vehicle called the “R2” on Thursday. It’s the second generation of a vehicle that’s custom built to deliver goods, but not people.

The company said it plans to deploy fewer than 100 vehicles this year, but has permission from NHTSA to eventually run as many as 2,500.

The delivery vehicles, equipped with laser, camera and radar sensors, will travel with regular traffic on public roads.

The exemption from motor vehicle standards from NHTSA also allows Nuro to run its rear cameras all the time. Current standards require backup camera displays to turn off when vehicles are moving forward so the displays don’t distract human drivers, the company said.

Nuro said in a statement that the R2 has a front-end that protects pedestrians by collapsing inward. It’s also equipped with temperature controls to keep perishable goods or meals fresh.

The vehicles make curbside deliveries to humans who can open the storage compartments with a code that’s sent to them and unload the goods.

Nuro said NHTSA’s approval came after three years of work with the agency.

“By replacing heavy passenger vehicles utilized for shopping and other errands, Nuro is ushering in a new era of neighborhood-friendly and socially responsible zero-occupant vehicles,” the company said in its statement.

Company co-founder and President Dave Ferguson said NHTSA’s decision “shows that exemption can mean more safety.”

Still unresolved is an application from General Motors to allow a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt that doesn’t meet safety standards for human-driven vehicles that travel at higher speeds. GM wants the Bolt to be allowed without a steering wheel or brake pedals.

Tech companies and automakers have been able to test autonomous vehicles without NHTSA approval in the past because they have had steering wheels, brake pedals and other features required of human-piloted cars and trucks.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

A rock squirrel at zion national park, they are the focus of fat squirrel week...
Becky Bruce and Samantha Herrera

Zion National Park announces Fat Squirrel Week… it might not be what you think

Fat Squirrel Week at Zion National Park aims to bring awareness about not feeding the local critters. The park says to pack out what you pack in.
9 hours ago
President Biden Delivers Remarks On Reducing Gun Crime...
Kaitlan Collins, Sam Fossum and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Biden offers stark ‘Armageddon’ warning on the dangers of Putin’s nuclear threats

On Thursday, President Biden issued an Armageddon warning of Russia's continued threat to use nuclear weapons.
9 hours ago
A Now Hiring sign hangs in the window of Zupas in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Ben ...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US hiring stayed solid in September as employers add 263,000

Some economists remain hopeful that despite the persistent inflation pressures, the Fed will still manage to achieve a so-called soft landing: Slowing growth enough to tame inflation, without going so far as to tip the economy into recession.
9 hours ago
People gather outside of a daycare center's scene of a mass shooting in the town of Uthai Sawan, 50...
Kocha Olarn, Hannah Ritchie and Heather Chen, CNN

Dozens of children among at least 36 people killed in childcare center massacre in Thailand

Children were among those killed in a shooting at childcare center in Thailand on Thursday. At least 36 people were killed.
9 hours ago
Dozens of people stage a demonstration to protest the death of a 22-year-old woman under custody in...
Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

A young woman’s death in Iran has sparked an uprising. News organizations are grappling with how to cover it

News organizations in the West are grappling with how to cover the uprisings in Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman.
9 hours ago
Nichole Thomas, Pioneer Park Coalition member and Latter-day Brides owner, speaks during a Pioneer ...
Mark Jones

Pioneer Park Coalition announces plan to combat crime, homelessness

On Thursday, the Pioneer Park Coalition announced a three-pronged plan to combat homelessness and crime in Salt Lake City.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
US lets autonomous vehicle bypass human-driver safety rules