Fair Warning, in an excellent article, reports on numerous concerns voiced by safety advocates about the regulatory rush to self driving vehicles.
“On Valentine’s Day in Silicon Valley, one of Google’s experimental, self-driving cars sideswiped a city bus at 2 miles an hour. The incident marked the first time an autonomous car contributed to an accident on a public road, but did nothing to diminish the Obama administration’s enthusiasm for driverless vehicles.
A month after the crash, at an autonomous car conference in Dearborn, Mich., Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, said his agency and the federal Department of Transportation “are using all the tools we have available to advance what see as a revolution in technology,” according to his prepared remarks. “Our goal is to hasten this revolution.”
Enthusiasts say autonomous cars will grant mobility to the elderly and the disabled, transform congested freeways and eliminate the human errors responsible for most traffic accidents, which kill about 33,000 people per year. “Automated vehicles open up possibilities for saving lives, saving time and saving fuel,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in January at the North American International Auto Show, where he announced the administration wants to spend $3.9 billion, over ten years, to foster the development of driverless cars. “We are bullish on automated vehicles,” he said.
But some automotive safety advocates fear government is embracing the technology too quickly without carefully assessing its actual capabilities and practical implications. With billions of dollars at stake and aggressive lobbying by the tech and automotive industries, safety advocates worry that government regulators will allow themselves – and the public – to be steamrolled in the name of progress and innovation.
Rosemary Shahan, the founder and president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, is concerned that autonomous cars are not ready for the road.
“These cars are not ready for prime time,” said Rosemary Shahan, the founder and president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a Sacramento, Calif.-based advocacy organization best known for spearheading passage of the state’s automobile lemon law.
Autonomous cars, which have been in development since at least 2009, are known to struggle in inclement weather; rain, fog and snow disrupt their sensors. “We should be requiring them to prove that they’re really ready” before rushing self-driving cars to consumers, Shahan said.
She’s also worried about draft regulations in California that would make occupants responsible for all traffic violations that occur while a driverless car is operating in autonomous mode. Shahan said manufacturers “should be willing to assume the liability.”