Exclusive: U.S. talks with GM over deploying self-driving cars without steering wheels

By David Shepardson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is holding talks with General Motors Co on the automaker's petition to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on American roads without steering wheels or other human controls, the head of the agency said on Friday. Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens said his agency aims to make a decision soon on GM's January 2018 petition as well as a request by Softbank Corp-backed driverless delivery startup Nuro to deploy a limited number of low-speed, highly automated delivery vehicles without human occupants

Reuters December 21, 2019 05:06:50 IST
Exclusive: U.S. talks with GM over deploying self-driving cars without steering wheels

Exclusive US talks with GM over deploying selfdriving cars without steering wheels

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is holding talks with General Motors Co on the automaker's petition to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on American roads without steering wheels or other human controls, the head of the agency said on Friday.

Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens said his agency aims to make a decision soon on GM's January 2018 petition as well as a request by Softbank Corp-backed <9434.T> driverless delivery startup Nuro to deploy a limited number of low-speed, highly automated delivery vehicles without human occupants.

The agency's review comes at a time of heightened concerns about the safety of automated piloting systems in vehicles and aircraft, a potential revolution in ground and air transportation.

"I expect we're going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon - as soon as we can," Owens told Reuters, adding action "definitely" would come next year.

"This will be a big deal because this will be the first such action that will be taken," Owens said.

GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker, confirmed it has been in talks with NHTSA about the petition. Nuro also confirmed it is in talks with NHTSA.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last week met and discussed the petition at a high level, officials said, but significant work remains at the technical level. Owens said NHTSA officials are "crawling through these petitions because we want to make sure" they are at least as safe as cars on the roads.

"There's a lot of back and forth between us and the companies," Owens said during a Reuters interview that also included Chao and other Transportation Department officials. "We're sharing with them thoughts and ideas and concerns. They come back to us with additional information."

Chao said it is important that the NHTSA take its time in reviewing the GM petition. Chao suggested that some auto industry officials and analysts were too optimistic about the timing for deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.

"I think the complexity was far greater than what a lot of very optimistic advocates were thinking," Chao said.

In GM's petition, NHTSA is for the first time looking at a vehicle in which all driving decisions are made by a computer rather than a human driver. Nuro, which partnered with Kroger Co last year to deliver groceries, seeks approval not to include a windshield in the vehicle.

The petitions - formal applications for action by the agency - seek exemptions from U.S. vehicle safety rules largely written decades ago that assumed human drivers would be in control of a vehicle. The petitions are for up to 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer.

GM initially said it hoped to win approval to deploy the vehicles by the end of this year. But in July its self-driving unit, Cruise, said it was delaying commercial deployment of cars as more testing of the vehicles was required without specifying a new target date.

Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit this year began offering some rides with no human driver in its limited autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona, but with steering wheels and employees watching remote feeds of the vehicles' cameras.

"We're in communication with them about how they are ensuring the safe operation of the vehicle," Owens said. "We will continue having a back and forth with them."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Scotland's seafood exporters dealt new post-Brexit blow
World

Scotland's seafood exporters dealt new post-Brexit blow

By Kate Holton LONDON (Reuters) - The post-Brexit woes facing Scotland's fishing industry deepened on Saturday as its biggest logistics provider, DFDS Scotland, said it would halt exports to the European Union through one of its main services until at least Wednesday. Previously the company had said it would take until Monday to resume its "groupage" export service - which allows exporters to ship multiple products in a single consignment - while it tries to fix IT issues, paperwork errors and a backlog of goods. DFDS's move represents another blow for Scottish fishermen who this week warned that their businesses could become unviable after Britain shifted to a less integrated trade deal with the EU at the turn of the year

Pope Francis to have COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week
World

Pope Francis to have COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Saturday he planned to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as next week and urged everyone to get a shot, to protect not only their own lives but those of others.

U.S. Senator urges mobile, social media providers to keep Capitol rioters' data as man seen seizing Speaker's lectern arrested
World

U.S. Senator urges mobile, social media providers to keep Capitol rioters' data as man seen seizing Speaker's lectern arrested

By Rich McKay (Reuters) - A man photographed carrying off the Speaker's lectern during the Capitol Hill riots was arrested late Friday, while a top Democratic lawmaker on Saturday called on mobile carriers to preserve social media content related to the riots. Dozens of people have been charged following the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday, with the FBI asking the public for help identifying participants, given the proliferation of images of the riots on the internet.