US talks with GM on deploying self-driving cars without steering wheels

WASHINGTON: The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is holding talks with General Motors Co on the automaker’s petition to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on American roads without steering wheels or other human controls, the head of the agency said.
Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens said his agency aims to make a decision soon on GM’s January 2018 petition as well as a request by Softbank Corp-backed driverless delivery startup Nuro to deploy a limited number of low-speed, highly automated delivery vehicles without human occupants.
The agency’s review comes at a time of heightened concerns about the safety of automated piloting systems in vehicles and aircraft, a potential revolution in ground and air transportation.
“I expect we’re going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon — as soon as we can,” Owens said, adding action “definitely” would come next year.
“This will be a big deal because this will be the first such action that will be taken,” Owens said.
GM, the No 1 US automaker, confirmed it has been in talks with NHTSA about the petition.
Nuro also confirmed it is in talks with NHTSA.
GM Chief Executive Mary Barra and US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last week met and discussed the petition at a high level, officials said, but significant work remains at the technical level.
Owens said NHTSA officials are “crawling through these petitions because we want to make sure” they are at least as safe as cars on the roads.
“There’s a lot of back and forth between us and the companies,” Owens said. “We’re sharing with them thoughts and ideas and concerns. They come back to us with additional information.” — Reuters