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GM's plan to deploy cars without driver controls faces pushback

by Drew Johnson

Not everyone is embracing full autonomy.


Self-driving cars will eventually become a reality, but General Motors is learning that the population at large might not be ready to embrace cars without a human at the helm just yet.

Early last year GM asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a temporary, two-year waiver for items designed for human drivers and mandated under federal law -- things like mirrors and a steering wheel. GM was seeking the waiver so it could deploy a fleet of about 2,500 modified Chevy Bolts to test a driverless ride-hailing service in San Francisco.

However, the petition, which was available for public comment for the last two months, is facing uncertainty after receiving pushback from a number of entities. The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, which represents nearly half of the auto insurers in the U.S., was one of the parties that voiced opposition to the waiver.

"NHTSA has no business enabling (automated vehicles) to operate on the roads, and surely has no business removing federally mandated vehicle safety standards to a vehicle that they do not know if it's as safe as existing vehicles,” the group said, according to Reuters.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have also requested various concessions to GM's driverless vehicle plans.

The waiver request does have some big name backers, however. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Federation of the Blind, the Telecommunications Industry Association and American Trucking Associations support the petition in the name of advancing autonomous vehicle technology.

In 2017 there were 6.4 million crashes on U.S. roads, causing 2.7 million injuries and 37,000 fatalities. According to the NHTSA, driver error was a factor in more than 90 percent of those crashes.

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