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Ford Pulls Petition To Skip Safety Standards On Autonomous Vehicles

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Autonomous vehicle technology has changed a lot in a short period. Government regulators have been increasingly scrutinizing claims about the tech’s capabilities while companies have shifted to focus on developing and improving advanced driver-assist systems.

Ford is one of these companies, recently withdrawing a petition to federal regulators that had asked to skip seven safety standards for a small fleet of driverless vehicles aimed at commercial applications like local deliveries. In July 2022, Ford and General Motors asked the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to exempt these autonomous vehicles from requiring traditional controls like a steering wheel. According to a new Automotive News report, citing unpublished federal documents, Ford withdrew its petition last month.

A Ford spokesperson told the publication that the company pulled its petition as it focuses resources on developing more advanced driver-assist systems. Just a few weeks ago, the Blue Oval announced the creation of its new Latitude AI subsidiary to do just that, assembling a team that included 550 former Argo AI employees. Argo was the automaker’s previous autonomous vehicle endeavor, which shut down at the end of 2022. The company no longer needs the exemption for SAE Level 4 testing.

Latitude will support Ford’s BlueCruise driver-assistance technology, which the automaker launched two years ago. The SAE Level 2 tech first arrived in the 2021 Mach-E and 2021 F-150, using advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies to offer a hands-free driving mode. The tech also includes an in-car camera to monitor the driver to ensure they pay attention to the road, as fully autonomous vehicles still do not exist.

Tech companies and automakers have invested billions in autonomous vehicle technology over the last decade, but developing a reliable and safe product for the masses hasn’t happened yet. However, while some are pulling back from investing in pie-in-the-sky dreams, others are charging ahead.

Last year, General Motors, which has its own SuperCruise Assist system in several brands, announced that it would expand its autonomous robotaxi service Cruise to new markets in 2023, including Austin and Phoenix. It has also sought an exemption for its Origin autonomous vehicle that lacks manual controls as it pushes the tech ahead.

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