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GM, Lyft wants to be allowed to remove driver controls on autonomous cars

Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that is part of Waymo's fleet


General Motors and Alphabet & # 39; s Waymo are among the companies that encourage federal safety regulators to quickly, yet safely, update laws to better meet testing and approval of fully autonomous vehicles on US public roads, including those without driver's control.

The companies, considered by many to be leaders in autonomous vehicles, were among about 90 organizations and individuals who commented publicly on a proposed regulation on self-driving regulations for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Lyft, Volvo, Intel and Mercedes-Benz, New York City and nonprofit consumer advocacy organizations such as the Center for Auto Safety all weighed in on new self-driving vehicle safety standards before the public comment period closed Wednesday.

Particularly absent from the comments was Tesla, who has been very public about their ambitions to test and distribute autonomous vehicles. Tesla did not immediately respond to comment.

The comments will be taken into consideration when federal regulators write about the rules, NHTSA said in an email statement.

While many believe autonomous vehicles can save lives, some have been skeptical about allowing vehicles on public roads ̵[ads1]1; especially after a fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle in March 2018 in Arizona.

Removing Manual Controls

Regulators are considering allowing vehicles without manual controls, including steering wheel and pedals, to operate on US roads. Current laws require such equipment, and companies must request exemptions to launch such vehicles.

GM, which last year, together with its Cruise Autonomous Vehicle subsidiary, requested such exemptions, and Lyft support creates separate requirements that meet the "intention" of the safety standards, not the physical equipment.

"GM / Cruise supports NHTSA in establishing new definitions that apply only to ADS-DVs [autonomous vehicles] without manual control," GM said. "That would allow NHTSA to refine, if necessary, the requirements that apply to ADS-DV versus those that apply to traditional vehicles."

Lyft agreed in his comments that a "separate vehicle classification" for autonomous vehicles with their own regulations would "remove regulatory barriers and amend [federal motor vehicle safety standards] which refers to a human driver and / or assumes some manual control element of the test procedure."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes 12 automakers representing around 70 percent of all car and light truck sales in the United States, urged NHTSA to use "a parallel and phased approach" focusing on vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems as well as autonomous vehicles with and without manual controls.

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Consumer Reports While Recognizing Due to the Potential Long-Term Safety Gain of Autonomous NHRs

"In short: for NHTSA to save lives and prevent injuries, the more important subject the agency should focus on is" removing regulatory barriers ", especially given the rapid pace of industrial innovation in many areas today," Consumer Reports said .

The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer advocacy organization, said it remains "skeptical" of companies testing vehicles without manual control, citing "there is no demonstrable evidence that the vehicles" can safely operate (and off) America & # 39; s Roads. "

—CNBC & # 39; s contributed to this report.

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