Center For Auto Safety to Testify to House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Need to Use Advanced Vehicle Technology

May 17, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jason Levine, [email protected] or phone at 202-328-7700.

Center For Auto Safety to Testify Before House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee
on the Need to Use Advanced Vehicle Technology to Stem the Public Health Crisis
of Car Crash Deaths and to Assist in the Development of Driverless Vehicles

On behalf of the Center for Auto Safety (“the Center”), Executive Director Jason Levine will testify Tuesday at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee hearing: Promises and Perils: The Potential of Automobile Technologies.

The Center’s testimony will focus on how utilizing proven vehicle safety technology can protect everyone inside and outside vehicles. These innovations, in combination with smarter infrastructure, and a dedication to consumer rights, can create a safer world for all starting right now. Conversely, the perils of failing to equip all new vehicles with existing advanced safety features, while overemphasizing the potential for driverless cars, are more years of 115 deaths every day and falling further behind countries making road safety a priority.

“No single mistake should ever cost someone their life – especially when existing technology, available at reasonable price, can mitigate or eliminate potential tragedy and does not interfere with the utility of the vehicle. One of the greatest potentials for automobile technology is the opportunity to use it to prevent crashes before they occur. Conversely, consumers have their lives imperiled every day because instead of employing available technology, proven consumer protections, and targeted government involvement, manufacturers and policymakers find it easier to chase headlines and sound-bite solutions.,” Levine will tell the Committee.

His prepared testimony continues: “Instead of a debate about solutions to an actual crisis, victims must suffer through another round of Chicken Little commentary decrying that if we do not immediately put all our eggs in the driverless vehicle basket the U.S. will lose out in the race to be first to transportation and environmental nirvana. Yet, few Autonomous Vehicle (AV) proponents who claim to be motivated by vehicle safety mention that the twenty-nine foreign countries making up the European Union (EU) experienced record low vehicle related deaths just last year, without a single driverless vehicle on the road. The EU, despite a larger population, and an almost identical number of vehicles and land size, had fewer than 19,000 crash deaths last year, a total less than half of the U.S. death toll.  This disparity is unacceptable.”

The Center’s testimony will recommend a four-pronged approach to seize on the potential of existing and yet-to-come vehicle technologies to protect everyone on U.S. roads.

  • A role for the Federal Government: There must be federal government involvement to create rules and oversight fostering an environment that can iteratively introduce innovative vehicle technology safely to the market thus laying the groundwork for consumer confidence. Automotive history has repeatedly shown that absent regulation requiring the adoption of life-saving technology, safety is typically only available for an additional price – a price frequently paid by everyone on the road.
  • Data Collection: There must be data collected, and shared, from driverless test vehicles to provide not only the basis for needed rules but also to enable the public to differentiate between manufacturers who innovate for safety from those who do not. The testimony details a variety of areas of data collection from black boxes to defect reporting systems that need improvement.
  • Gated Certification: There must be competent examination and oversight of AVs as they mature to assure that safety claims match the reality of manufacturer developments and objectively supervised operational experience. Establishing objective operational safety standards which can be verified by an outside third-party prior to unfettered public deployment is a critical step in achieving long term driverless success.
  • Requiring Performance Standards for Proven Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): One of the most easily identifiable differences between the U.S. and the EU is the far greater number of vehicle safety features which are standard overseas. By 2022, all new passenger vehicle models in the EU will come equipped with a suite of ADAS features that remain optional or non-existent equipment on US vehicles.

The testimony will also detail vital areas of overdue and ignored rulemaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), including a desperate need to update the 1968 seatback standard to end the horrors of seatback collapses killing and paralyzing small children in rear end collisions and completing the Congressionally required whistleblower rules to incentivize reporting of corporate malfeasance that can lead to vehicle crashes and deaths.

The Center will also call on Congress and NHTSA to address the 55 million unrepaired recalled vehicles on U.S. roads by more actively notifying consumers of open recalls – including by email, stopping the federal government’s current practice of using and selling tens of thousands of recalled cars, and granting NHTSA imminent hazard authority to get dangerous vehicles off the road.

The testimony concludes: “Today’s hearing is focused on the “Potential of Automobile Technologies,” a topic which we believe is inextricably linked with consumer protection and corporate oversight. Afterall, the purpose of advanced vehicle technology is to protect consumers, particularly those who may be bystanders to a vehicle possessing the latest unproven features. Further, amongst the essential roles for government is to be a watchdog over the for-profit entities in the vehicle marketplace. A well-functioning automobile ecosystem will include the checks and balances of consumer protection and corporate oversight along with the push and pull of profit and loss reports.”

The Center’s full testimony can be found HERE.

The Center’s responses to Questions for the Record are HERE.

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The Center for Auto Safety was founded in 1970 in Washington, DC as a member supported, national, independent, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy for all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Over the last 51 years, the Center has successfully led the fight for lemon laws in every state, airbags in every vehicle, and recall repairs being made at no cost to the consumer. For 40 years the Center published The Car Book, America’s most comprehensive car buying guide focused on safety, and in that spirit now offers the custom Vehicle Safety Check providing regular safety updates and hard-to-find service alerts on vehicle safety issues. To learn more about the Center, please visit www.AutoSafety.org.