New NHTSA driverless car rules allows for cars without steering wheels and pedals

One step closer to living in a world where Maximum Overdrive is possible.


In a new “first-of-its-kind” ruling, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will allow companies to manufacture autonomous, self-driving vehicles without manual controls, such as steering wheels or pedals. The full 155-page ruling notes that other safety measures still need to be in place though.

In a nutshell, the ruling is focused on avoiding “unnecessary terminology” and “ambiguities” when it comes to applying safety standards to vehicles that don’t require manual controls. The ruling also applies to dual-mode ADS-equipped vehicles (ones that offer traditional driving options in addition to self-driving options).

As for how the NHTSA defines an autonomous vehicle, according to the ruling, an ADS is defined as the “hardware and software that are collectively capable of performing the entire [dynamic driving task] on a sustained basis.” 

General Motors is planning to manufacture an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel called the Cruise Origin.

As reported by CNBC, the ruling was first proposed back in March of 2020 after General Motors reached out to the NHTSA for permission to build and deploy a vehicle called the Cruise Origin, a self-driving vehicle without manual controls.

The idea of General Motors of all companies handling the creation of a self-driving vehicle without a steering wheel is certainly an eyebrow-raising idea. That said, GM isn’t the only company looking to manufacture self-driving vehicles (with or without steering wheels) as CNBC reports GM to be among “30 or so companies or organizations permitted to test highly automated or self-driving vehicles on U.S. roadways.”

Furthermore, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has plans to create a car without a steering wheel, with Musk having previously said, “Once regulators are comfortable with us not having a steering wheel, we will just delete that. The probability of the steering wheel being taken away is 100 percent.”

It seems like Musk is set to be proven right on the matter given the new NHTSA ruling, in addition to the fact that companies outside of Tesla are also flirting with the idea of self-driving cars without steering wheels.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously stated that, "The probability of the steering wheel being taken away is 100 percent.”

Naturally, there are concerns about the current state of self-driving cars and whether this ruling is a bit premature. The ruling remarks on these concerns, stating:

For more on the new ruling, we recommend reading through the full document

After getting up-to-speed on the ruling, we’re curious about your thoughts on the matter. Even if a self-driving vehicle is perfectly autonomous, would you still want a steering wheel to be included as a “just in case” sort of thing? Let us know, and if you want to catch up with more Tesla-related info, be sure to check out our coverage of Tesla’s German Gigafactory getting conditional approval to start commercial production.

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

From The Chatty
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      March 11, 2022 11:30 AM

      Makes sense when you see how minimal Tesla is designing their cabins each iteration.

      As they get closer to full autonomy the steering wheel will disappear along with the pedals, probably going down to just one pedal soon.

      Then we'll see a subscription model "Tesla+" for full autonomy driving and you probably wont even own the car unless you're very affluent, like with unlocked iPhones today vs owning a phone locked to a service. You just buy a Tesla+ car and pay a monthly fee for a couple of years until you're "eligible" to upgrade.

      Then we'll start to see incentives from insurance companies, if Tesla doesn't offer their own coverage. Cheaper coverage if you don't drive yourself since the safety margins will just keep improving.

      Then they'll lobby the government to provide more incentives to go with an autonomous service vs owning a car you can drive yourself, like the poors with their old inline-4 engine cars, because as we all know it's expensive to be poor.

      After that Shell/Chevron/bp will probably buy some competitor to Tesla to create a cheaper, advertising-subsidized competitor service/vehicle, similar to Android devices. Maybe Amazon will buy Rivian and introduce Prime Auto or something.

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      March 11, 2022 3:27 PM

      What I find strange is that the government has not come up with an open source, free to use, embedded in the road system for highways for route navigation. A long time ago the drive by wire idea was proposed and has simply gone away.

      Embedding small pucks with simple passive RFID information every hundred or thousand feet would be pretty helpful. Yeah it would only be 2kb worth of data but that's more than enough to provide in-lane navigation and keep the cars on track, especially in areas with low cell / sat coverage.

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        March 11, 2022 3:40 PM

        I'm sure it was proposed internally and then a director read the proposal and was like "what? we're not doing whatever this is, I'm retiring in 5 years, let the next fucker deal with this"

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        March 11, 2022 3:53 PM

        My impression is that figuring out where the car is on the road is a small part of the problem compared to figuring out what everyone else on the road is doing and dealing with them and changing road conditions.

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        March 11, 2022 6:01 PM


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        March 11, 2022 6:12 PM

        the incredible cost and maintenance of lining every highway with electronics to do something that computer vision can already do seems to answer your question? Like this maybe helps only on the roads that are so covered in snow you can't see lane markings?

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          March 11, 2022 6:53 PM


          We already do this. Doing the same with passive rfid is not really that big of a deal.

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            March 12, 2022 12:19 AM

            It's an instant non-starter in states where snow plows are used. It's the same reason places like Colorado don't have the reflector strips embedded in the road (which sucks, because I can't see lane lines for shit when it gets rainy enough).

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        March 12, 2022 5:13 AM

        It would be obsolete instantly. What is your device going to trust, static info that may not have been updated in months/years, or the accumulation of data of hundreds of vision enabled devices passing the same stretch of road every day, plus your car’s own sensors.

    • reply
      March 13, 2022 9:57 AM

      Self-driving cars have to maintain high level of occupant protection, said NHTSA. Future autonomous cars would come ditching steering wheel and any pedals. by

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