October 9, 2018 / 8:17 PM / in 11 days

Self-driving cars may hit U.S. roads in pilot program -NHTSA

WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Fully self-driving cars may be on the fast lane to U.S. roads under a pilot program the Trump administration said on Tuesday it was considering, which would allow real-world road testing for a limited number of the vehicles.

Self-driving cars used in the program would potentially need to have technology disabling the vehicle if a sensor fails or barring vehicles from traveling above safe speeds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a document made public Tuesday.

NHTSA said it was considering whether it would have to be notified of any accident within 24 hours and was seeking public input on what other data should be disclosed including near misses.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in 2017 to speed the adoption of self-driving cars, but the Senate has not approved it. Several safety groups oppose the bill, which is backed by carmakers. (bit.ly/2zrN92C) It has only a slender chance of being approved in 2018, congressional aides said.

NHTSA said the pilot project would seek to find “how best to foster the safe introduction of vehicles with high and full driving automation onto our nation’s roadways.”

Real world data would help create methods “of validating the safety performance” of self-driving vehicles and writing safety rules, it added.

Last week, the Trump administration said it was working to revise safety rules that bar fully self-driving cars from the roads without equipment such as steering wheels, pedals and mirrors.

Automakers must currently meet nearly 75 auto safety standards, many of them written with the assumption that a licensed driver would be able to control the vehicle using traditional human controls.

Under the law, automakers can petition for an exemption for up to 2,500 vehicles for vehicle safety standards as long as they are at least as safe as existing vehicles.

General Motors Co in January filed a petition seeking an exemption to use fully automated vehicles as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019.

NHTSA has not declared the GM petition complete, a step necessary before it rules on the merits.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona this year with no human driver behind the steering wheel. Unlike GM, Waymo’s vehicles will initially have human controls.

NHTSA said it would partner with state and local governments in developing a pilot program. NHTSA could require companies to design vehicles so they know their location and the local rules of the road, while states and cities would enforce the rules. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

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