Nicolas Guibert de Bruet, Attorney at Law and Technology Consultant
Guibert.law Blog Entry
Monday, March 23, 2020, at 23:23.
This past St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2020), the luck of the Irish ran out for human drivers. In Washington, D.C., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new proposed regulations that will have the net effect of allowing the development of vehicles without manual controls. In a bid to encourage the development of driverless vehicles, the agency claims that further requiring manufacturers to put manual controls in these new vehicle designs does not make much sense or stifles innovation.
NHTSA went as far as proposing the redefinition of the word "driver", in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, to equate automated driving systems to human drivers, without banning (yet) humans from being drivers. Fortunately, the regulations for conventional vehicles have not been changed in that respect. Regulators aim to remove the human factor from the roads, since the lion's share of crashes are caused by driver error. Other proposed changes include the removal of occupant protection safety systems for vehicles with specialized uses, such as occupant-free delivery vehicles.
It looks like we may have crossed a threshold where the upcoming elimination of human drivers from the roads has begun in earnest. While this trend will not materialize or complete immediately, and may indeed take decades, please note that we may already be the contemporaries of the first generation that will never have the right to a driver license.