Autonomous vehicles can lose the steering wheel under new US safety standards

Fully autonomous vehicles in the United States will no longer have to be equipped with manual controls like pedals and a steering wheel to meet safety standards.

New passenger safety regulations published on Thursday replace older rules written with the assumption that vehicles would always have to be controlled by a human driver.

In a statement announcing the “first-of-its-kind” safety ruling, the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the old wording of vehicle safety standards no longer made sense for vehicles designed to be entirely self-driving.

“The occupant protection standards are currently written for traditionally designed vehicles and use terms such as “driver’s seat” and “steering wheel,” that are not meaningful to vehicle designs that, for example, lack a steering wheel or other driver controls,” the NHTSA said.

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