WASHINGTON — A coalition of 92 major cities and transportation agencies is calling NHTSA refuse to separate requests from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles without certain human controls or functions on US roads.
In comments provided to the agency Wednesday, the National Association of Metropolitan Transportation Officials said it strongly opposes both automakers’ requests for temporary exceptions from certain federal vehicle safety standards.
The association, whose member cities include Detroit, Phoenix and San Francisco, argues in part that introducing driverless vehicles into the existing regulatory framework is inappropriate and that NHTSA should instead use its rulemaking authority to set new performance standards for their vehicles.
It also says that the automakers’ petitions do not meet the legal standard for obtaining an exemption and that the exemptions are not necessary to achieve the public benefits they claim.
“If NHTSA decides to grant an exemption, then NHTSA must also strengthen its conditions for operation, use and reporting,” the association said in a comment. “Updated testing conditions and reporting standards are necessary to promote safe testing of AV technologies while serving the public interest and avoiding potential negative impacts on congestion, equity and mobility.”
There are car manufacturers looking for exceptions so they can deploy up to 2,500 self-driving cars without traditional controls or features.
Ford is seeking an exemption from seven safety standards to deploy vehicles that will be used to support mobility services such as ride-sharing and package delivery, according to the petition.
In his comments to the agency, Ford said the exemptions were necessary “to remove existing compliance barriers that require human management and information.”
“These exemptions allow AVs to be designed in a way that minimizes the potential for human error and intervention in automated driving tasks,” wrote Emily Frascaroli, Ford’s global director of automotive safety. “As shown in Ford’s petition, Ford [automated driving system] replaces the need for a human driver and ensures compliance with the vehicle-level safety and compliance requirements of the exempted regulations.”
GM is seeking an exemption from six safety standards to roll out its Origin vehicle, which is designed to provide ride-sharing and fleet-controlled delivery services. According to the petition, the Origin is not equipped with manual controls or features such as a steering wheel, pedals, manual turn indicators and mirrors.
In joint comments to NHTSA, GM and its self-driving technological unit, cruisesaid that “deployment of Origin, with appropriate reporting requirements, will allow NHTSA to obtain valuable data to better understand the operation of autonomous vehicles, the impact of AVs on the transportation system, and public acceptance and use of AVs—with a longer-term goal of informing NHTSA about how create appropriate federal motor vehicle safety standards.”
In June, a self-driving car, driven by Cruise, appeared involvement in an accident in San Francisco, injuring the occupants of both vehicles. NHTSA said it has opened a special investigation into the incident.
The agency has not yet ruled on any of the petitions.
In July former NHTSA chief Stephen Cliff said the agency “scrutinizes each petition carefully to ensure that safety is prioritized and includes considerations of access for people with disabilities, equity and the environment.”