DOT Waffles on Ethical and Safety Issues of Autonomous Vehicles

DOT Waffles on Ethical and Safety Issues of Autonomous Vehicles

October, 2016

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Mike Lemov has written an Op-Ed published in The Hill.

“On Sept. 20, the Department of Transportation, by law our primary national traffic safety enforcement agency, issued its long awaited “guidelines” for the development and sale of driverless cars. The Department attempted, Solomon-like, to balance its guidance between ensuring public safety and promoting the speedy development of driverless cars (called “Highly Automated Vehicles”) for use on our roadways.

For all its fanfare, DOT’s guidance failed to achieve its primary mission of ensuring safety.

DOT and its delegate agency NHTSA did not issue any new enforceable safety regulations for driverless vehicles, at least for the present. It did not propose any premarketing standards or requirements for automated cars, except to say it will shortly ask all producers of driverless cars and component systems to answer a comprehensive questionnaire about their proposed designs and test methods. Absent was any commitment by the federal government to actually regulate the new cars before they are sold to the public for use on public roads.

The omission is discouraging and could prove dangerous, particularly in view of the current record of partially automated vehicles getting into accidents. Some of these crashes have been deadly. It seems as if the guidelines were designed to preempt states such as California which already has issued enforceable safety regulations, such as requiring a driver and a steering wheel in all vehicles.

The Department did warn producers that the current penalties for not reporting a safety related defect publicly would apply to the automated cars, despite the weakness of the current penalties and the agency’s failure to force reporting of past lethal dangers of non-driverless cars, such as Toyota’s sudden acceleration, General Motors’s ignition shut off problem and Takata’s exploding airbags. In all these cases, and many more, the lack of adequate federal civil and any criminal sanctions apparently induced manufacturers to gamble on not reporting the accidents, even while people were being injured and killed.

The ethical and safety issues raised by the Department’s waffle are troubling.”  See

Hopefully, Congress will look into the ethical and safety failures of DOT officials who have allowed the rising rate of crash victims in the U.S.A. today:
*  100 deaths per day 
*  400 serious injuries per day
*  $2 Billion in losses per day
Lou Lombardo


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