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GM faces pushback on the U.S. self-driving vehicle plan

(Reuters) – General Motors Co faces pushback over its request that US regulators refrain from some car safety standards to make it possible for the implementation of a ride-part of the fleet of unmanned cars without the steering wheel or other human checks.

FILE PHOTO: The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Factory in Lansing, Michigan, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

GM first made the request for a two-year temporary exemption on functions, such as mirrors, dashboard warning lights and turn signals designed for a human driver in a petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 2018.

The largest U.S. carmaker said it hoped to deploy not more than 2500 modified Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles, as part of a controlled, on-demand ride-sharing fleet, probably based in San Francisco, at the end of 2019.

In March, NHTSA made the petition available for public comment for 60 days, ending on Monday.

Various groups, including the car dealers and insurers, the questions the public has made this week to press NHTSA demand for more data, require additional safety provisions or refuse the request outright.

The National Association of mutual insurance companies said unmanned aerial vehicles without human control should not be permitted on the public road until the data shows the cars are safe.

“NHTSA has no business to enable (automated vehicles) to operate on the roads, and certainly has no business removing federally mandated safety standards for cars with a vehicle that they do not know whether it is as safe as the existing vehicles,” said the group, which represents 43 percent of the U.S. car insurers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said GM should not be allowed to remember safety features, such as high-beam headlights of the vehicle and the design of the vehicle to require the passengers to wear seat belts.

Backers of GM’s plan to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Federation of the Blind, the Telecommunications Industry Association and the American Trucking Associations, who say that autonomous vehicles have the potential to drastically cut the toll of auto accidents.

More than 37,000 people were killed and 2.7 million injuries 6.4 million crashes on U.S. roads in 2017. NHTSA says that a human error is not a critical factor in more than 90 percent of all accidents.

INDICATORS

The American Association of Motor vehicle Administrators, said NHTSA should also have unmanned vehicles to “make use of a kind of signs or a universal indicator to alert first responders, potential passengers and other road users that the vehicles do not meet federal safety standards.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, said the car manufacturer, the production of more data on how the GM self-driving cars on the road with the run back up the safety of the drivers and for the petition to be rejected.

GM self-driving test vehicles in California with a backup driver in the front passenger are involved in at least 69 traffic collisions, the group said.

Although not all accidents occurred when the car in self-driving mode and there was little evidence that the cars were in the legal debt, UCS said the details suggested GM’s self-driving car at times “not in conformity with typical driver behaviour, which leads to confusion or frustration among other road users.”

GM spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan declined to address specific comments. “We will review the many comments received and respond as necessary,” she said.

NHTSA said on Wednesday it would also seek public comment “on the removal of unnecessary barriers to the safe introduction of automated driving systems” as part of the broader efforts for the preparation of a regulation for self-driving cars.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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