Center for Auto Safety Statement regarding:
House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee
Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on: Autonomous Vehicles: Promises and Challenges of Evolving Vehicle Technologies
February 11, 2020
“The Center for Auto Safety firmly believes Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology will play a significant role in a safer transportation future and is committed to seeing its successful and safe integration into our transit ecosystem. Yet, permitting the deployment of self-described self-driving vehicles on public roads, based exclusively on the marketing assurances of the auto industry, ignores that industry’s well-documented history of unsupported advertising claims clashing with reality.
As long-time advocates for the deployment of new car safety technology we were particularly disappointed that Secretary Chao’s statement in Las Vegas in January that DOT was ‘all in’ for AV safety was just a bluff for the purpose of a press release. More gambling with other people’s lives and money came a few weeks later when NHTSA’s Acting Administrator James Owens claimed the AV industry isn’t self-regulating because NHTSA can always recall dangerous cars. It is hard to imagine a more irresponsible statement from the purported leader of America’s car safety agency. To suggest an after-the-fact recall of a defective vehicle is as good as making sure they are safe before they hit the road reveals a callousness towards safety and a fundamental misunderstanding of how safety regulations work. We expect better from the Federal Government.
The time for Congressional leadership that gives the best chance for the safe development of AV technology is now – before any more Americans have their lives upended, or prematurely lost, due to unregulated defective AV technology. Otherwise, today’s exaggerated ‘Full Self Driving’ claims by Tesla about vehicles which do not meet any such definition will soon seem tame. Outlandish claims by auto manufacturers, and their new Silicon Valley partners, suggest they will end all deaths on American roads by building perfect autonomous vehicles that will replace all the dangerous drivers on our roads. The reality is that technological changes to design and safety features, in combination with holding responsible manufacturers liable for dangerous products; educational and legal efforts to reduce drunk driving; and significant and periodic improvements in required minimum vehicle performance standards have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Quickly deploying tens of thousands of unproven and unregulated AV without new rules, oversight, or a significant upgrade in highway and road infrastructure, is not good transportation policy.”