New rules from the US North American Highway Transport Authority (NHTSA) could allow fully driverless vehicles on American roads.
An announcement from the US Department of Transportation, operating through the NHTSA, will "reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards" on autonomous vehicles, taking "active steps to prepare for the future by engaging with new technologies to ensure safety without hampering innovation".
That will involve regulations that are "only relevant when human drivers are present", potentially opening the door for totally supervision-free vehicles.
At the moment, carmakers need to meet over 70 automotive safety standards in the USA – many of which assume there's a human driver present. General Motors, according to Reuters, filed a petition earlier this year to use vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals as part of its ride-sharing service in 2019, but the push hasn't yet been approved.
Self-driving arm of Google, Waymo, is also planning to launch a driverless ride-sharing fleet next year, but those vehicles will still include physical controls.
Although we're not as far down the autonomous road in Australia, there's been significant movement on the regulation side of things this week.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, yesterday announced a $9.7 million investment in the Office for Future Transport Technologies.
“I expect the Office to collaborate across governments to ensure automated vehicles are safe, to consider future infrastructure needs, to make sure cyber security safeguards are in place, and to support Australian businesses in taking advantage of new commercial opportunities," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
To date, the biggest federal move planning for autonomous vehicles is the November 2016 launch of a 'roadmap of reform' by the National Transport Commission – an independent advisory body funded by Commonwealth and State governments – that will determine which laws need to be changed or created to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
McCormack also said the push to self-driving vehicles will boost the Australian economy, and help slash our road toll.
“Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government and the emergence of automated vehicles represents a significant opportunity to realise safety and productivity benefits while supporting Australian industry and innovation,” he said.
“The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025."
“While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, these technologies also have great potential to reduce the $27 billion cost of road crashes in Australia each year," he added.