WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a “Final Rule” for publication in the Federal Register specifying occupant-safety standards for autonomous vehicles (AVs) not equipped with traditional human driving controls (like a steering wheel).

The bulk of federal occupant-safety standards were conceived around vehicles with clear-cut driver and front-passenger positions as well as those in rear seats and the various challenges each position provided

Changes in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) were necessary to accommodate control-less AVs – ones with automated driving systems (ADS) — and this Final Rule addresses the need, although no such vehicles are on the road — as yet.

“As the driver changes from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep the humans safe remains the same and must be integrated from the beginning,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, in a statement. “With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”

If follows last year’s NHTSA order producers of vehicles with SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems (ADS) to report crashes.

In its announcement of the order, NHTSA said this action will enable NHTSA to collect information necessary for the agency to play its role in keeping Americans safe on the roadways, even as the technology deployed on the nation’s roads continues to evolve.

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems,” said Dr. Cliff. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.”