Federal regulators move to make room in safety standards for driver-less cars

 Federal regulators on Tuesday moved to make changes in some safety standards to help pave the way for driver-less vehicles.

They could give companies trying to create autonomous vehicles more leeway when approaching federal standards — like those written in such a way as to refer to a driver’s seat or a steering wheel — that may not apply to them.

For instance, they could make clear that all the forward-seated passengers in a driver-less vehicle receive the same level of safety protection as someone seated in the front passenger seat does now, without the safety requirements required for someone seated in the driver’s position. That could change how air bags deploy, say, on what had been known as the driver-side position.

Another change would be to make it clear that occupant protection wouldn’t be required in an autonomous truck that doesn’t have a driver or passengers.

The proposal issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wouldn’t change standards for any manually driven cars, trucks or buses.