[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 221 (Friday, November 15, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 68748-68757]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-27105]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. NHTSA-2009-0189]
RIN 2127-AL13


Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Designated Seating 
Positions

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Final rule; response to petitions for reconsideration.

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SUMMARY: This document completes the agency's response to petitions for 
reconsideration of an October 2008 final rule that amended the 
definition of the term, ``designated seating position,'' as used in the 
Federal motor vehicle safety standards, to facilitate the determination 
of which areas within the interior of a vehicle meet that definition. 
The final rule made the new definition applicable to vehicles 
manufactured on and after September 1, 2010. Previously, the agency 
granted petitions requesting one year of additional lead time until the 
new definition became applicable, removal the portion of the regulatory 
text stating that State tort law requirements are preempted, and 
technical corrections. This final rule addresses the remaining issues 
raised in the petitions for reconsideration and makes clarifying 
changes to the manner in which designated seating positions are 
measured. We are also including technical corrections addressing side-
facing seats and longer seating surfaces.

DATES: The effective date of this final rule is December 16, 2013.
    Petitions for reconsideration must be received not later than 
December 30, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Petitions must be submitted to: Administrator, National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For non-legal issues, you may contact 
Louis Molino of the NHTSA Office of Crashworthiness Standards by 
telephone at (202) 366-1740, and by fax at (202) 493-2739.
    For legal issues, you may contact David Jasinski of the NHTSA 
Office of Chief Counsel by telephone at (202) 366-2992, and by fax at 
(202) 366-3820.
    You may send mail to both of these officials at the National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC 20590.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

I. Background
II. Petitions for Reconsideration
III. Analysis of Petitions for Reconsideration
    A. Definition of DSP
    B. Analysis of Safety Problem
    C. Seating Surface Measuring Procedure
    1. Determination of the ``Front Leading Surface''
    2. Determination of Seating Surface Width
    3. Interior Trim at the Seating Surface Outer Edges
    4. Seating Surface Interrupted by Interior Trim
    5. Voids and Seat Separation
    6. H-Point Interruptions
    7. Folding, Removable, and Adjustable Seats
    8. Closely Adjoining Seat Belt Buckles
    D. Calculating the Number of DSPs
    E. Consumer Information Label
    F. SAE J1100
    G. Technical Correction for Side-Facing Seats
IV. Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

I. Background

    On October 8, 2008, NHTSA published in the Federal Register a final 
rule (October 2008 final rule) revising the definition of ``designated 
seating position'' (DSP), as that term is used in the Federal motor 
vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), and providing a calculation procedure 
for determining the number of seating positions at a seat location.\1\ 
The revised definition specifies more clearly the areas within the 
interior of a vehicle that are regarded as being designated seating 
positions for trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles, passenger cars, 
and buses. The rule also established a calculation procedure for 
determining the number of DSPs at a seat location for trucks and 
multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating less 
than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), passenger cars, and buses.
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    \1\ 73 FR 58887 (Oct. 8, 2008) (Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0059).
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    The designation of a seating position has important safety 
consequences. Under the FMVSSs, motor vehicle manufacturers must meet 
various performance requirements for each interior location designated 
as a seating position. For example, FMVSS No. 208, Occupant Crash 
Protection, requires that each DSP in a light vehicle be provided with 
the appropriate occupant crash protection system (e.g., air bag, seat 
belts or both). Clarity in the definition of DSP is important for the 
purposes of that standard because if a vehicle has fewer DSPs than the 
number of individuals able to sit in it, one or more of those 
individuals would not be protected by seat belts and/or other crash 
protection systems.
    In the October 2008 final rule, the agency stated that the revised 
definition of ``designated seating position'' added clarity to the 
existing definition and was not expected to have a substantial impact 
on current vehicle designs. The degree to which seat designs exhibited 
the characteristics that gave rise to the agency's concerns had 
significantly lessened in the fleet. Manufacturers had either reduced 
the width of the seating area to more accurately reflect the intended 
occupancy or had provided additional DSPs.
    The October 2008 final rule noted that the inclusion of auxiliary 
seats in the definition of ``designated seating position'' and the 
newly established procedure for determining the number of DSPs would 
require minor redesign of a small number of vehicles. To allow 
manufacturers the opportunity to make such redesigns, the agency 
provided approximately two years of lead time, such that, on September 
1, 2010, all vehicles would need to comply with the new requirements.

II. Petitions for Reconsideration

    We received ten petitions for reconsideration of the October 2008 
final rule. The petitioners are SAE International (SAE), BMW North 
America (BMW), the Alliance of

[[Page 68749]]

Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), Volkswagen of America 
(Volkswagen), the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers 
(now Global Automakers), the American Association for Justice (AAJ), 
Safety Research and Strategies (SRS), Toyota Motor North America 
(Toyota), Mitsubishi Motors R&D of America (Mitsubishi), and Public 
Citizen.\2\ Toyota also expressed its support for the Alliance's 
petition. The petitions filed by SAE International and Toyota were 
styled both as requests for interpretation and, alternatively if the 
agency did not agree with their suggested interpretation, as petitions 
for reconsideration.
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    \2\ The AAJ petition was jointly filed by the AAJ, the 
Association of Trial Lawyers of America--New Jersey, Consumer 
Attorneys of California, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, 
the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the Pennsylvania 
Association for Justice, and the Washington State Trial Lawyers 
Association. Public Citizen's petition was filed jointly by Public 
Citizen and the Consumer Federation of America.
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    In a December 23, 2009 final rule,\3\ we provided a partial 
response to these petitions. In response to petitions by the Alliance, 
Global Automakers, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen that sought additional 
lead time for implementing the new definition of ``designated seating 
position'' via a phase-in, we provided one year additional lead time so 
that vehicle manufacturers would need to comply with the new rule on 
September 1, 2011. In response to petitions from the AAJ and Public 
Citizen, we removed language from the text of the DSP definition 
stating that any State requirement, including any determination under 
State tort law, premised on there being more DSPs than the number 
contemplated in the definition, was preempted. We also addressed a 
technical error pointed out in petitions from SAE, the Alliance, and 
Global Automakers by correcting an erroneous cross reference.
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    \3\ 74 FR 68185.
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III. Analysis of Petitions for Reconsideration

A. Definition of DSP

    Prior to September 1, 2011, the basis for determining whether a 
location was considered a designated seating position was whether it 
was a plan (i.e., side) view location capable of accommodating a person 
at least as large as a 5th percentile adult female if the configuration 
and design of the vehicle were such that it was likely to be used as a 
seating position while the vehicle is in motion. The October 2008 final 
rule replaced this definition with one setting forth a more objective 
manner of determining whether a seating surface is considered a DSP. As 
defined in the October 2008 final rule, a designated seating position 
is a seat location with a seating surface width of at least 330 mm.
    Global Automakers petitioned the agency to replace the 330 mm seat 
cushion width specification with the prior language relying on the 
capability of accommodating a 5th percentile adult female. Global 
Automakers stated that this prior definition would achieve the agency's 
intended goal because the formula for counting DSPs would still be 
specified in section 571.10.
    The agency is denying the petition to amend section 571.3 to revert 
to the prior definition. We continue to believe that the seating 
surface width measurement better reflects a location's ability to 
accommodate an occupant. We also believe that the new definition is 
more consistent with the seating width-based manner for calculating the 
number of DSPs in section 571.10.
    Global Automakers did not provide a compelling reason to revert to 
the old definition. Its only assertion is that the DSP definition would 
explain the agency's concept of a DSP. It is true that the 330 mm 
specification for a DSP in the new definition was consistent with the 
hip measurement of a 5th percentile adult female. However, as we stated 
in the October 2008 final rule, our intent was to provide both a more 
objective definition of DSP and a more objective method for determining 
the number of DSPs at a seating location.\4\ The current 330 mm 
specification better implements the agency's intent. Accordingly, we 
are denying Global Automakers' request.
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    \4\ See 73 FR 58888.
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B. Analysis of Safety Problem

    Two petitioners, Public Citizen and SRS, petitioned the agency to 
amend the DSP definition, asserting that adequately updated data and 
sound scientific techniques were not employed in developing the final 
rule.
    Public Citizen expressed its belief that the October 2008 final 
rule did not close the regulatory gap regarding the provision of enough 
seat belts for the number of designated seating positions. Public 
Citizen asserted that the agency has not provided sufficient analysis 
to support its assertions that the change in average seat width between 
2001 and 2006 has reduced the safety problem. Public Citizen also 
stated that the agency did not consider human factors related to 
reduced seat belt use rates when a third occupant is seated in a 
seating area with two DSPs. Public Citizen claimed that the agency did 
not investigate whether the options of a void space or impediment would 
discourage occupants from sitting in a space that is not a DSP, nor did 
the agency have sufficient data to conclude that the reduction in 
seating width has solved the problem of too many occupants sitting in a 
seating area.
    SRS also questioned the data that NHTSA used to reach its 
conclusions. SRS reiterated concerns expressed in its comments on the 
NPRM that the proposed impediment and void specifications were based on 
inaccurate data. SRS also questioned the agency's reliance on these 
measures in the absence of any scientific human factors analysis of the 
potential effectiveness of designs to keep occupants from occupying a 
non-DSP.
    NHTSA addressed many of these issues in the October 2008 final 
rule. Public Citizen and SRS did not provide any additional information 
to the agency nor did they provide any suggested changes to the 
requirements. In response to SRS's comments regarding the accuracy of 
the data related to the Acura Integra 2-Door, the agency stated:

Safety Research and Strategies also stated that its analysis of the 
data indicated that the incident rate of three occupants seated at 
the 2-DSP rear seat of the Acura Integra 2-Door was twice as high as 
presented in the PRE. The incident rates of the Acura were relied 
upon by the agency in developing the impediment countermeasure. 
However, it is unclear whether Safety Research and Strategies 
evaluated data from the same period as in the agency's analysis.\5\
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    \5\ 73 FR 58889 n.2.

Although SRS characterized the agency's response as inadequate, in 
response to SRS's comment, the agency's technical staff reviewed the 
data in question for the inaccuracies cited by SRS and concluded that 
the agency's original analysis was valid. Our position has not changed. 
We do not believe any type of measure is necessary for all rows with 
two DSPs. A measure, including an impediment, is only required if a 
seating surface area is otherwise wide enough to be considered to have 
three DSPs and the manufacturer does not want to add a third seat belt. 
The purpose of the measure is to make clear to the consumer that the 
seating surface is only intended for two occupants at a time.
    We also believe that Public Citizen's and SRS's expectations for 
the effectiveness of measures are overstated. In our Final Regulatory 
Evaluation (FRE), we stated that we could not estimate the benefit of 
the impediment/

[[Page 68750]]

void option.\6\ However, we do believe that impediments and voids could 
reduce the risk of crash injuries because passengers would be less 
likely to occupy unprotected spaces that are either unavailable 
(because of a void between seating positions) or uncomfortable (because 
of an impediment).
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    \6\ Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0059-0002.
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    The agency did not conduct a human factors analysis because we 
identified a small target population in the FRE. The specifications 
proposed in the NPRM and adopted in the final rule were largely based 
upon vehicles that were identified as having low fatality rates and 
employed an impediment or void in the second row. The agency attributed 
the lower fatality rate to the impediment installed in the seating 
surface, which deterred overcapacity and misuse. We continue to believe 
that a human factors study is not necessary to achieve the aim of the 
final rule, which is the identification of DSPs and improved 
enforceability.
    Based upon the agency's fleet survey, we did not expect impediments 
or voids to be used in many vehicles. However, when used, we believed 
their function was to provide consumers with information regarding the 
vehicle's seating capacity. It was not the agency's intent for 
impediments and voids to act as physical barriers or make it impossible 
for a vehicle to be overloaded or misused. In the unlikely event that 
an occupant considers sitting on an impediment or void and then cannot 
locate a seat belt, we believe that it should be reasonably obvious to 
the occupant that the location is not intended for occupancy while the 
vehicle is in motion.
    In the FRE, the agency identified a significant decrease in the 
seat belt usage rate when comparing incidents in which two passengers 
occupied a two-DSP seating area compared to incidents in which three 
passengers occupied a two-DSP seating area. We believe this explains a 
drop in the seat belt usage rate in these cases from 53.25 percent to 
27.67 percent. It is reasonable to assume that this drop in usage rate 
was due to the unavailability of a third seat belt in the row and the 
possible inability of other passengers to use the seat belts that are 
provided because of lack of physical space. We do not believe a human 
factors study is necessary to explain this reduced seat belt use rate.
    Public Citizen asserted that second rows of two-door SUVs had two-
DSP second rows. However, this is contrary to the agency's findings. 
Most existing vehicles that did not comply with the new requirements 
were sport coupes with non-traditional second row bench seats and 
third-row seats on SUVs that were intended to have two DSPs, but the 
seating surface width was sufficient to have three DSPs. The agency did 
not identify any sedans or SUVs with a bench seating surface that had a 
second row with two DSPs.
    It remains the view of the agency that the reduced seat size 
combined with the presence of only two seat belts will more clearly 
indicate to occupants the capacity for which crash protection is 
provided. This will prevent manufacturers from including wide bench 
seats with only two seat belts unless an impediment or void is used 
that will interrupt the seating surface. Although we expect the new 
definition and requirements for seat separation to aid in eliminating 
uncertainty as to the number of DSPs at a seating location, it is not 
practical to require designs that would completely prevent consumers 
from attempting to seat more occupants than a row or seat is designed 
for.

C. Seating Surface Measuring Procedure

    A number of the petitions raised issues related to the seating 
surface measuring procedure. We have grouped these petitions into seven 
separate issues, which we address below.
1. Determination of the ``Front Leading Surface''
    SAE requested clarification on how the agency intends to determine 
the ``front leading surface.'' The front leading surface is referenced 
in determining the boundaries of the area in which the seating surface 
width is measured. Specifically, section 571.10(c)(1) provides that the 
``seating surface width'' is the maximum width of a seating surface in 
a zone extending from a transverse vertical plane 150 mm (5.9 inches) 
behind the front leading surface of a seating surface to a transverse 
vertical plane 250 mm (9.8 inches) behind that front leading surface, 
measured horizontally and longitudinally.
    SAE stated that it interpreted the ``front leading surface'' as the 
frontmost edge of the soft trim of the seat cushion, but would not 
include the forward edge of unpadded components such as seat shields, 
seat adjusters, or adjuster covers. SAE asked for confirmation of its 
interpretation.
    We agree with SAE that the ``front leading surface'' would include 
soft trim, but would not include the unpadded trim components such as 
decorative seat shields, seat adjusters, or adjuster covers. To reflect 
this intent, we are amending the language of section 571.10(c) to make 
clear that these unpadded trim components would not be considered part 
of the seating surface for the purpose of determining the ``front 
leading surface.''
    Furthermore, SAE requested the agency's position on how the ``front 
leading surface'' would be defined when seats are angled such that the 
centerline of the seat is not parallel with the centerline of the 
vehicle. SAE asked the agency for confirmation of its interpretation 
that an ``X'' plane tangent to the frontmost edge of the seat cushion 
is used to measure the 150 mm and 250 mm distance from the front 
leading edge.
    With respect to angled seats, the agency did not intend the ``front 
leading surface'' to be defined in the manner described by SAE. Rather, 
the agency intended the measurement zone to be determined from the 
front leading surface of the seat in its ``forward'' facing direction 
as defined in S4.3 of FMVSS No. 210, regardless of how the seat may be 
oriented in the vehicle. That is, ``forward'' refers to the direction 
in which the seat faces, rather than the direction the vehicle faces, 
and the measurement zone would be oriented perpendicular to that 
direction.
    To reflect this interpretation, we are making an amendment to 
section 571.10(c)(1). We believe the effects from this amendment will 
be minimal because angled seats are not common.
2. Determination of Seating Surface Width
    Global Automakers and Toyota requested that the agency clarify its 
position on how the seating surface width is measured. Global 
Automakers raised two specific scenarios. The first scenario involves 
seat cushions whose outer edge slopes downward. Global Automakers was 
not certain whether the measurement will be made from the outer edge of 
the seat cushion (identified in A in Figure 1) or the point where the 
top surface of the cushion begins sloping downward toward the side of 
the seat (identified as B in Figure 1). Toyota interprets the language 
as contemplating the seating surface width measurement to take place 
between the vertical planes tangent to the outboard edges of the seat, 
as indicated in Figure 2. Toyota stated that if its interpretation is 
not correct, it was petitioning the agency to adopt its position.

[[Page 68751]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15NO13.000

    NHTSA agrees with Toyota's interpretation that the seating surface 
width will be determined from the maximum width between the vertical 
planes tangent to the outboard edges of the seat. We note that in the 
context of seat width measurement, the determination of what is 
outboard is made with respect to the seat orientation and may not align 
with what is outboard with respect to the vehicle. This measurement 
procedure is more objective than the other measurement procedure 
suggested by Global Automakers. It is not always clear at what point 
the top surface of the seat cushions begin to slope downward to the 
side because such surfaces may be rounded or uneven and seat cushions 
can be pliable.
3. Interior Trim at the Seating Surface Outer Edges
    Global Automakers also requested that the agency clarify its 
interpretation on how the measurement will be taken for seat cushions 
whose outer edge extends underneath interior trim. Global Automakers 
noted that, in some cases (one of which is illustrated in Figure 3 
below), the interior trim interrupts the ``nominal hip room'' using the 
SAE H-point machine and that an occupant could not use the seating 
surface under the trim.

[[Page 68752]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15NO13.001

    Although the agency agrees that, in Global Automakers' example, 
some portion of the ``seating surface'' may not be a location where an 
occupant could actually sit, the amendment to the DSP definition was 
designed to make the definition more objective. The new definition is 
not based upon non-objective concepts such as the usability of the 
seating surface by the occupant or ``nominal hip room.'' Manufacturers 
will have to consider the usability of the space in designing the 
vehicle; however, the DSP definition and measuring procedure make no 
allowance for seating space that is made unusable by the positioning of 
trim components such as body-side armrests.
    NHTSA would measure the seating surface width from the plane 
indicated in drawing A on Figures 1 and 3 above. NHTSA would only 
consider a trim component in the determination of the seating surface 
width if the trim makes contact with the top of the seat within the 
measurement zone. To make this clearer, we are adding specificity to 
the determination of the ``seating surface width.''
    We clarify that the determination of the seating surface width is a 
comparative measurement of all possible width measurements within the 
measurement zone, given specific constraints. The seating surface width 
is the maximum width determined by these comparisons. The constraints 
on the measurements are that they are made between vertical planes that 
intersect the outboard seat edges, unless the outboard edge is 
interrupted by interior trim in contact with the top edge of the seat.
    If the seating surface is interrupted by outboard interior trim in 
contact with the top edge of the seat, the vertical plane used in 
determining the seating surface width will be the plane that intersects 
the most inboard point of contact between the interior trim and the 
point of contact with the top of the seat. We have also added a figure 
to the regulatory text to illustrate the measurement procedure, 
including how trim components making contact with the seating surface 
affect the measurement.
4. Seating Surface Interrupted by Interior Trim
    Section 571.10(c)(2)(i)(A) provides an exception to the general 
rule that adjacent seating surfaces are considered to form a single, 
continuous seating surface. If adjacent seating surfaces are separated 
by a fixed trimmed surface that has an unpadded top surface and a width 
of not less than 140 mm (5.5 inches), those surfaces will not be 
considered to be continuous.
    Public Citizen petitioned the agency to eliminate the option to 
separate adjacent seating surfaces with unpadded fixed trim. Public 
Citizen stated its belief that, if a seat contains three 330 mm seating 
spaces, the manufacturer should be required to have three DSPs with 
three seat belt assemblies. Otherwise, Public Citizen argued that 
manufacturers should be required to use voids to interrupt a seating 
surface.
    We are denying Public Citizen's request to remove the option to 
separate seating surfaces with unpadded fixed trim. It is not 
practicable in all vehicle types with a bench seat where the seating 
cushion width would require three DSPs to provide restraints for three 
DSPs, particularly in the case of rear seats of convertibles and sport 
coupes. These seats are often close to the vehicle floor, where it 
would be impractical or impossible to include a void in the seat 
cushion. We also believe that a child seat positioned in the rear seat, 
which may extend over the void, could be unstable during use and in a 
crash. We are also concerned that, if such seats were required to have 
three DSPs, three occupants would not be able to be seated comfortably, 
which could reduce seat belt usage at such seating positions. We 
believe that allowing manufacturers options for interrupting otherwise 
continuous seating surfaces is the best approach to improving the 
identification of DSPs by consumers.
    SAE requested clarification on how the agency would consider trim 
when measuring the seating surface. SAE provided two illustrated 
examples, shown below, and asked for NHTSA's clarification on how 
``trim'' would be defined.

[[Page 68753]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15NO13.002

    In Example 1, SAE described an impediment in the middle of the seat 
as an ``embedded convenience system.'' During the seating surface 
measurement, the agency would first determine if the impediment meets 
the requirements of sections 571.10(c)(2)(i)(A) or 571.10(c)(2)(ii). 
SAE stated in its request that it was assumed that the conditions of 
section 571.10(c)(2)(ii) were not met by the impediment.\7\ Therefore, 
a determination would need to be made as to whether the impediment was 
``a fixed trimmed surface whose top surface is unpadded and that has a 
width not less than 140 mm (5.5 inches), as measured in each transverse 
vertical plane within that measurement zone.'' Such a determination is 
impossible to make from the schematic provided and may only be possible 
from a physical examination of the impediment. If the impediment 
satisfied the criteria, the seating width would end at the impediment's 
edge, as shown by dimension ``B'' and ``C.'' However, if the impediment 
did not satisfy the criteria, the agency would define the maximum 
seating surface width as shown by distance ``A'' in Example 1. We think 
this is clear from a reading of section 571.10(c)(2).
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    \7\ We address issues related to section 571.10(c)(2)(ii) in 
section III.C.5.
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    SAE asked about the measurement procedure with respect to Example 
2. We believe this has been made clear both in the regulation and the 
agency's test procedure. Assuming the shaded area is fixed, unpadded 
trim surface, the determination of seat surface width depends on 
whether the length of ``D'' is less than 140 mm. If ``D'' is less than 
140 mm, then seating surfaces ``B'' and ``C'' form a continuous seating 
surface and the number of DSPs would be calculated using measurement 
``A.'' If ``D'' is at least 140 mm, seating surfaces ``B'' and ``C'' 
would have sufficient separation such that the number of DSPs for 
seating surfaces ``B'' and ``C'' would be calculated separately based 
on the length of ``B'' and ``C.''
    SAE also asked whether the use of the word ``unpadded'' meant the 
trim had to be uncovered or whether a fabric with minimal foam backing 
would be considered unpadded. In the October 2008 final rule, the 
agency merely defined the footprint that a trim impediment must cover 
to allow manufacturers a degree of flexibility in assigning this 
space.\8\ For example, a fixed unpadded trim surface could be used for 
a convenience function such as a cup holder, tray, or storage and also 
serve to divide seating surfaces.
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    \8\ See 73 FR 58891.
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    The agency did not define the term ``unpadded trim'' or provide 
examples in the October 2008 final rule. This was intentional. We did 
not want to be unnecessarily design restrictive or prevent 
manufacturers from implementing creative solutions that would appeal to 
consumers and still provide visual cues regarding the number of DSPs in 
a given row. To address SAE's question, we do not intend the term 
``unpadded'' to mean that the trim cannot be covered. Unpadded trim, 
even if covered with material such as fabric, leather, or vinyl solely 
for aesthetic purposes, will be significantly harder than the more 
pliable foam and covering used for the seat cushion and would make 
sitting on the surface unwelcoming, which would deter its use as a 
seating surface.
5. Voids and Seat Separation
    Toyota requested clarification regarding the width measurement of a

[[Page 68754]]

void defined in section 571.10(c)(2)(i)(B). That section states that 
seating surfaces can be separated by

[a] void whose cross section in each transverse vertical plane 
within that measurement zone is a rectangle that is not less than 
140 mm (5.5 inches) wide and not less than 140 mm (5.5 inches) deep. 
The top edge of the cross section in any such plane is congruent 
with the transverse horizontal line that intersects the lowest point 
on the portion of the top profile of the seating surfaces that lie 
within that plane.

Toyota interpreted this language to mean that the width measurement of 
the void is taken between planes tangent to the seat edges on either 
side of the void. This means that, where the seat edges adjacent to a 
void are sloped downward toward the edge of the seat before turning 
downward, the measurement between the seat edges would be made from the 
outer edge of the seat rather than from where the seat surface begins 
to slope downward.

    This issue has been clarified in NHTSA's test procedure with 
illustrated examples. We believe it is clear that the width of the void 
area would be measured between the adjacent edges of the two adjacent 
seating surfaces.
    SAE also requested clarification regarding voids. It interpreted 
section 571.10(c)(2)(i)(B) as applicable to seating rows that have 
three or more seats. It reasoned that, when two or more seats are at 
least 140 mm apart, section 571.10(c)(2)(iii) would apply, which 
relates specifically to the seat cushion separation requirement for 
outboard seats. SAE asked for clarification on how NHTSA would 
interpret two adjacent seating surfaces that are not separated by 140 
mm.
    We do not agree with SAE's interpretation of the applicability of 
section 571.10(c)(2)(i)(B). The applicability of section 
571.10(c)(2)(i)(B) is not limited to rows with certain numbers of DSPs. 
Rather, we anticipate that seating surfaces with ``voids'' would 
generally be used by a manufacturer when otherwise there would be a 
single seating surface that would require more DSPs than the 
manufacturer intends. In contrast, the seat cushion separation in 
section 571.10(c)(2)(iii) only applies to adjacent outboard seating 
surfaces and does not limit the measurement zone. However, when 
adjacent seating surfaces are not separated by 140 mm, the agency would 
consider the seating surface between the two seats to be continuous. We 
believe this issue has been addressed by specific examples in the 
agency's test procedure.
6. H-Point Interruptions
    SAE and Toyota requested clarification of section 571.10(c)(2)(ii) 
as it applies to interrupting the H-point between two adjacent DSPs. 
SAE expressed uncertainty as to whether the agency intended that the 
interruption be at the location of the H-point or within a larger area 
such as the 101 mm height or 76 mm fore-aft distance of the hip room 
zone. We believe the regulatory text is clear that the actual location 
of the H-point must be interrupted by interior trim. This was further 
illustrated in the agency's test procedure, which was published after 
we received SAE's request for clarification.
    Toyota interpreted the measurement procedure as using the two 
outboard seating position H-points to determine the ``X'' plane 
location. We agree with Toyota that we would use the outboard DSPs to 
determine the ``X'' plane location. However, we would also define the 
H-point for any adjacent DSPs, even if they are not both outboard. To 
clarify this, we are amending section 571.10(c)(2)(ii). Furthermore, 
the H-point for adjacent DSPs may not necessarily fall on the same 
plane, or even planes that pass through each other. In such a case, 
interior trim can interrupt the ``X'' plane if it interrupts the ``X'' 
planes of both adjacent seating positions.
7. Folding, Removable, and Adjustable Seats
    SAE requested that the agency clarify the applicability of section 
571.10(c)(3), which specifies the manner in which folding, removable, 
and adjustable seats are considered. This section provides that 
folding, removable, and adjustable seats are measured in the 
configuration that results in the single largest maximum seating 
surface width.
    First, SAE questioned what effect folding or removable seats have 
on the seating surface width. That is, SAE noted that when such seats 
are folded or removed, manufacturers do not intend for people to sit on 
the back of the seat or in the area where the seat previously occupied. 
The agency's intent, with respect to seats that are designed to fold or 
be removed from the vehicle, such as seats in the second or third row 
of minivans or sport utility vehicles, was that the seats be configured 
such that the maximum possible seating surface width is measured for 
that row when measuring seating surface width.
    Second, SAE noted that seats that adjust backwards and forwards or 
up and down do not cause the seat cushion itself to become wider. SAE 
asked what range, including seat rotation, in the case of swiveling 
seats, to take into account when measuring surface width. We recognize 
that adjusting split bench seats or seats that can slide, depending on 
how the seats are positioned, may result in changes to the total 
seating surface width, and consequently may alter the calculated number 
of DSPs. When adjusting seat positions that may result in changing the 
number of DSPs, as with folding seats, we would determine the number of 
DSPs by adjusting the seats in a manner that produces the maximum 
number of DSPs. With respect to seats that adjust up and down, we note 
that the height of the seat is not taken into account.
    Third, SAE suggested that, if NHTSA intends to use section 
571.10(c)(3) to determine whether a seat is adjacent, the language 
would be better placed within the list specified under paragraph (c)(2) 
of that section. We disagree. Paragraph (c)(2) states the general rule 
that adjacent seating surfaces are considered to be a single, 
continuous seating surface and then lists three exceptions. The 
language in paragraph (c)(3) sets forth the configuration of certain 
types of seats, but does not itself define when a seating surface is 
(or is not) a continuous seating surface. Thus, we believe it is better 
to separate the rules for considering folding and adjustable seats from 
the exceptions stated in paragraph (c)(2).
8. Closely Adjoining Seat Belt Buckles
    BMW petitioned the agency to allow two ``closely adjoining'' seat 
belt buckles at the center of a seating row with a seating surface 
width of less than 1,200 mm to be considered a seating surface with two 
DSPs. Under section 571.10, as currently written, such a seating 
surface, if at least 1050 mm, would have three DSPs. BMW reasoned that 
such closely adjoining seat belt buckles, which are raised from the 
surface of the seat, would serve as a visual cue and an impediment to 
using the area in between as a seat.
    We are denying BMW's request. Although it is possible that 
adjoining seat belt buckles may provide a visual cue to some occupants 
as to what is or is not a DSP, BMW provided no data to establish the 
validity of this assumption. We are also not convinced that adjacent 
seat belt buckles will provide an impediment to seating, as suggested 
by BMW. Therefore, we do not believe that adopting BMW's suggested 
language will solve the safety problem that the new DSP definition was 
intended to resolve. In the October 2008 final rule, we noted that the 
agency received a

[[Page 68755]]

complaint regarding the 2-door 2001 Ford Explorer, where consumers had 
believed the rear seating was sufficient for three people, even though 
there were only two DSPs and, consequently, two seat belt buckles.\9\ 
The seating surface width of the 2001 Ford Explorer is 1,270 mm, which 
is only 70 mm more than the maximum seating surface width that BMW 
proposes to allow. It is reasonable to believe that a situation similar 
to the 2001 Ford Explorer could occur again if NHTSA adopts BMW's 
suggested regulatory text.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ See 73 FR 58889.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

D. Calculating the Number of DSPs

    The new procedure for calculating the number of DSPs uses one of 
two calculations depending on the overall seating surface width. For 
adjacent seats with a continuous seating surface with a width less than 
1,400 mm, the seating surface width is divided by 350 mm and rounded 
down to the nearest whole number to determine the number of DSPs. For 
adjacent seats with a continuous seating surface width of 1,400 mm or 
more, the measured surface is divided by 450 mm and rounded down to the 
nearest whole number.
    Volkswagen questioned the use of the 350 mm divisor because the 
petitioner stated that the value is inconsistent with the prior DSP 
definition and manufacturer design parameters. The prior definition of 
designated seating position stated that seats with more than 127 cm 
(1,270 mm) of hip room shall not have less than three DSPs. Volkswagen 
reasoned that, applying this width to the new DSP definition, a divisor 
of 423 mm (1,270 mm divided by 3) would be appropriate. Volkswagen also 
stated that the design program used by many manufacturers provides 354 
mm as the ergonomic design value for the 5th percentile female seating 
hip room. Volkswagen believes that a divisor in the range of 360 to 400 
mm should be established for seating surface widths less than 1,400 mm.
    We are denying Volkswagen's petition to change the divisor for 
determining the number of DSPs. In the October 2008 final rule, the 
agency noted that a survey of the model year 2006 fleet supported the 
use of a 350 mm divisor.\10\ The average width of a two-DSP seating 
surface location in a vehicle dropped from 1,118 mm in model year 2001 
sport-utility vehicles to 979 mm in comparable model year 2006 
vehicles. We observed that the reduced seat size more clearly indicated 
to occupants the capacity for which crash protection is provided. Based 
upon this survey, we continue to believe that a 350 mm divisor is 
consistent with existing design practice.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ See 73 FR 58889.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Global Automakers petitioned the agency to correct an anomaly in 
the calculation for the number of DSPs in a seating surface width 
between 330 and 349 mm. Using the formula for seating surface widths 
less than 1,400 mm specified in section 571.10(b)(1), the number of 
DSPs for such a seating surface would be zero (330 mm divided by 350 
mm, rounded down to the nearest whole number). Global Automakers 
believes that the agency intended such seating surfaces to have one 
DSP.
    We agree with Global Automakers and are adopting their suggested 
regulatory text correction. Although the definition of DSP in section 
571.3 states that a DSP is a seating location with a seating surface 
width at least 330 mm, the formula for calculating the number of DSPs 
for a seating location with a seating surface width of at least 330 mm, 
but less than 350 mm, would produce a value of zero. This was not the 
agency's intended result. To correct this anomaly, we are amending 
section 571.10(b)(1) to establish a minimum of one DSP.
    We are also making a technical correction to the calculation of the 
number of DSPs for seating locations with a seating surface width of 
1,400 mm. This issue arose in interpretation requests received by the 
agency from Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) and Girardin Minibus 
(Girardin).\11\ Nissan and Girardin both raised the issue of seating 
surfaces longer than 1,400 mm (1,700 mm and 1,778 mm, respectively) and 
asked NHTSA to confirm that such a seating surface could have four 
DSPs. Using the formula set forth in section 571.10(b)(2), the seating 
surfaces would have three DSPs.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ NHTSA's response to these interpretation requests can be 
found at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/09-003169%20nissan.draft.dj.aug20.htm and http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/09-000724%20fortin.draft.dj.aug20.htm.
    \12\ A seating surface width of at least 1,800 mm would be 
required to have four DSPs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In response, the agency noted that the definition of ``designated 
seating position'' was changed because of a concern that, in certain 
situations, the number of people occupying a seating surface area 
exceeded the number of DSPs for that area. Particularly, the agency was 
concerned with seating surfaces that could accommodate three people, 
but had only two DSPs. Nissan and Girardin put forward a scenario in 
the opposite direction, a scenario in which a manufacturer wants to 
designate more DSPs than the number required by the formula in section 
571.10(b) and where the seating area is specifically designed for that 
greater number of occupants. We stated that it was not our intent to 
limit manufacturers from designating more DSPs than specified by the 
formula in section 571.10(b)(2). Moreover, we noted that the data do 
not demonstrate a problem with four people occupying a seat with three 
DSPs.\13\ The agency chose the 450 mm divisor for such seats based on 
the width typically used by seating manufacturers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ See 73 FR 58892.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In light of the issue raised by Nissan and Girardin, we are 
clarifying that the calculation procedure in section 571.10(b)(2) for 
seating surfaces of 1,400 mm or more is intended to be a minimum and 
manufacturers can provide more DSPs than the number calculated by the 
formula for these longer seating surfaces.

E. Consumer Information Label

    Public Citizen petitioned the agency to require labeling of non-DSP 
locations, such as voids separating adjacent DSPs, to reflect that the 
location is not a seat and that sitting in the location while the 
vehicle is in motion is dangerous. Public Citizen believes that the 
label would provide a clear and unambiguous indication that such an 
area is not a seat.
    We are denying Public Citizen's request. Although we agree that the 
labeling of non-DSP locations is consistent with the agency's intent of 
providing visual cues that a non-DSP location should not be used as a 
seat, we believe that this suggestion is outside of the scope of this 
rulemaking procedure. We did not propose labels as a countermeasure in 
the NPRM and did not seek public comment on the use of labels.
    In the October 2008 final rule, we discussed an option in FMVSS No. 
207, Seating Systems, that allows manufacturers of motor homes to place 
a label on a seating location that is not to be used while the vehicle 
is in motion, instead of identifying the seating location as a DSP and 
installing a seat belt. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association 
had expressed its concern that the agency's NPRM had proposed 
eliminating this option.
    We believe that the labeling of non-DSP locations for passenger 
vehicles is different because the FMVSS No. 207 option for labeling 
applies to actual seats and chairs intended to be used as such by 
occupants, albeit when the vehicle is not in motion. In the case of 
light vehicles, we believe that the

[[Page 68756]]

locations in which one of the agency's specified impediment 
countermeasures is used would be locations that would not comfortably 
seat an occupant.

F. SAE J1100

    SAE stated that it would like to include new definitions and 
dimensions related to the October 2008 final rule in the newest version 
of SAE J1100--Motor Vehicle Dimensions. In addition, SAE stated that it 
would like SAE J1100 to be consistent with the agency's intentions 
regarding the new DSP definition. SAE created draft definitions of 
``seating surface'' and ``seating surface width'' and requested that 
the agency express its agreement with these definitions. We believe our 
response to the specific concerns and questions raised by SAE and other 
petitioners and information in the agency's published test procedure 
offer the guidance SAE seeks on the definitions of ``seating surface'' 
and ``seating surface width.'' In the event that SAE desires NHTSA's 
interpretation regarding specific examples, SAE can request the 
agency's interpretation.

G. Technical Correction for Side-Facing Seats

    The revised DSP definition eliminated the exclusion of auxiliary 
seat accommodations such as temporary or folding jump seats. In the 
October 2008 final rule, we amended the test procedure in S5 of FMVSS 
No. 210, Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages, to specify that, for side-
facing seats, the specified force would be applied in the direction 
that the seat faces in a vertical plane perpendicular to the 
longitudinal centerline of the vehicle. However, we did not amend the 
strength requirement itself to remove the exception for side-facing 
seats. We were clear in both the NPRM and final rule that side-facing 
seats would need to comply with the seat belt anchorage requirements of 
FMVSS No. 210.\14\ We are including in this response a technical 
correction to S4.2.1 and S4.2.2 of FMVSS No. 210 to correct this 
oversight.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ See 70 FR 36097-98; 73 FR 58892-93.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

IV. Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866, Executive Order 13563, and DOT Regulatory 
Policies and Procedures

    The agency has considered the impact of this rulemaking action 
under Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and the DOT's regulatory 
policies and procedures. This action was not reviewed by the Office of 
Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866. The agency has 
considered the impact of this action under the Department of 
Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures (44 FR 11034; 
February 26, 1979), and has determined that it is not ``significant'' 
under them.
    This action completes the agency's response to petitions for 
reconsideration of the October 2008 final rule amending the definition 
of ``designated seating position.'' This final rule merely clarifies 
existing regulatory text to be more clear and consistent with the 
agency's intention. Today's action will not have any cost impacts for 
vehicle manufacturers. This action will not have any safety impacts.

B. Privacy Act

    Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all documents 
received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual 
submitting the document (or signing the document, if submitted on 
behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review 
DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published 
on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477-78) or you may visit http://docketsinfo.dot.gov/.

C. Other Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

    In the October 2008 final rule and in the December 2009 final rule 
providing a partial response to the petitions for reconsideration, the 
agency discussed relevant requirements related to the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, Executive Order 13132 (Federalism),\15\ Civil Justice 
Reform, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Paperwork Reduction 
Act, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, and 
Executive Order 13045 (Protection of Children from Environmental Health 
and Safety Risks). As today's final rule merely clarifies regulatory 
text to reflect the agency's intent in the October 2008 final rule, it 
will not have any effect on the agency's analyses in those areas.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ The issue of preemption was addressed in the preamble of 
the December 2009 final rule. See 74 FR 68187-89.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Parts 571

    Imports, Motor vehicle safety, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Tires.

    In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA amends 49 CFR part 571 as 
follows:

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

0
1. The authority citation for part 571 of Title 49 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117, and 30166; 
delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95.


0
2. In Sec.  571.10, revise paragraphs (b)(1), (b)(2), (c)(1), and 
(c)(2)(ii) and add paragraphs (c)(1)(i) through (iii) and Figure 1 to 
read as follows:


Sec.  571.10  Designation of seating positions.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (1) For seat locations with a seating surface width, as described 
in paragraph (c), of less than 1400 mm (55.2 inches): N = The greater 
of 1 or [seating surface width (in mm)/350] rounded down to the nearest 
whole number;
    (2) For seat locations with a seating surface width, as described 
in paragraph (c), greater than or equal to 1400 mm (55.2 inches): N = 
No less than [seating surface width (in mm)/350] rounded down to the 
nearest whole number.
    (c) * * *
    (1) As used in this section, ``seating surface'' only includes the 
seat cushion and soft trim and excludes unpadded trim components such 
as a decorative seat shield, seat adjusters, or adjuster covers. As 
used in paragraphs (c)(1)(ii) and (iii) of this section, ``outboard'' 
and ``inboard'' are determined with respect to the measurement zone 
established in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section. As used in this 
section, ``seating surface width'' is the maximum horizontal width of a 
seating surface determined by the following procedure:
    (i) Establish a measurement zone bounded by two vertical planes 
oriented perpendicular to the direction the seat is facing. One is 
located 150 mm (5.9 inches) behind the front leading surface of the 
seat and the other is located 250 mm (9.8 inches) behind the front 
leading surface of the seat. A measurement location within this zone is 
any vertical plane parallel to the planes establishing the boundary of 
the zone.
    (ii) For each measurement location within the zone, establish 
vertical reference planes parallel to the direction the seat faces that 
intersect the most outboard point on each side of the seating surface 
at that measurement location. If outboard interior trim contacts the 
top surface of the seat cushion, establish another vertical plane 
parallel to the direction the seat faces that intersects the most 
inboard point of contact between outboard interior trim and the top 
surface of the seat cushion.

[[Page 68757]]

    (iii) For measurement within the zone, measure horizontally between 
and perpendicular to the most inboard vertical reference planes 
established in (ii), as shown in Figure 1 (provided for illustration 
purposes).
    (2) * * *
    (i) * * *
    (ii) Interior trim interrupts the measurement of the nominal hip 
room between adjacent seating surfaces, measured laterally along the 
``X'' plane through the H-point. For purposes of this paragraph, the H-
point is located using the SAE three-dimensional H-point machine per 
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Surface Vehicle Standard J826, 
revised July 1995, ``Devices for Use in Defining and Measuring Vehicle 
Seating Accommodation'' (incorporated by reference, see section 571.5) 
with the legs and leg weights removed, or
* * * * *
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR15NO13.003


0
3. Amend Sec.  571.210 by revising the introductory paragraphs to 
S4.2.1 and S4.2.2 to read as follows:


Sec.  571.210  Standard No. 210; Seat belt assembly anchorages.

* * * * *
    S4.2.1 Except as provided in S4.2.5, the anchorages, attachment 
hardware, and attachment bolts for any of the following seat belt 
assemblies shall withstand a 5,000 pound force when tested in 
accordance with S5.1 of this standard:
* * * * *
    S4.2.2 Except as provided in S4.2.5, the anchorages, attachment 
hardware, and attachment bolts for any of the following seat belt 
assemblies shall withstand a 3,000 pound force applied to the lap belt 
portion of the seat belt assembly simultaneously with a 3,000 pound 
force applied to the shoulder belt portion of the seat belt assembly, 
when tested in accordance with S5.2 of this standard:
* * * * *

    Issued in Washington, DC, on November 5, 2013 under authority 
delegated in 49 CFR 1.95.
David L. Strickland,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2013-27105 Filed 11-14-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P