Self-driving Uber death should be a safety wake-up call for Congress

A woman walking her bike across an Arizona street was hit and killed by a driverless car last week. The car was supposed to be equipped with the latest in self-driving technology and a supervising safety driver as a backup if something went wrong. As a result, Uber and other companies have paused their autonomous vehicle testing programs.

Elaine Herzberg’s death was a tragedy — and a wake-up call.

Rumors swirl regarding disconnected sensors and the effectiveness of safety drivers. Yet, as we await the results of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation, here is what we already know: the current rules are not doing enough to protect the public because they are not designed to do so. 

If auto manufacturers and technology companies can deliver on their promises, driverless cars could save thousands of lives and change driving as we know it. Today, motor vehicles crashes are the second-leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S., and the leading cause of death for 5- to 24- year-olds.

Yet, instead of proposing commonsense regulation of an industry that possesses both tremendous potential and unlimited risk, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is working exclusively on how government should exit the field. This deregulatory direction has led down a path resulting in a complete failure to address safety and the first death by driverless car. The DOT seems focused on a future that may never materialize instead of overseeing the multitude of necessary and incremental steps that must first be taken to ensure the safety of automated driving technology at its core.

Click here to read our full opinion piece on The Hill.