ORLANDO — Eighteen months after General Motors requested an exemption from safety standards that may pave the way for deployments of self-driving vehicles without brake pedals and steering wheels, the company has yet to get an answer from federal regulators.
That could soon change.
Finch Fulton, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said a determination could come "soon" on the company's petition to place its zero-emission autonomous vehicles on public roads. A public comment period for the company's request closed May 20.
Speaking this month at the Automated Vehicles Symposium, Fulton acknowledged the Transportation Department hadn't promptly responded to GM's request. "We've had it for a long time now, and that's not great," he said. "One of the things we had to learn was to fix our own processes to go forward."
Those fixes involved removing a departmental requirement for "completeness" before processing the petition.
"Your guess is as good as mine when you deem something complete," Fulton said. "So now you go straight to public comment."
The change may help the department provide a quicker answer to a similar exemption request from Nuro, a self-driving delivery company testing vehicles without space for human passengers.
GM petitioned the Transportation Department in January 2018 for an exemption from federal motor vehicle safety standards requiring conventional controls.