Advocates Applauds Senators Asking For Improvements to Driverless Car Bill

  • March 14, 2018
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             

March 14, 2018

Contact: Eric Naing 202-408-1711, cell: 217-493-8294,

Statement of Cathy Chase,

President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,

On U.S. Senators’ Call for Critically-Needed Improvements to Driverless Car Bill

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) applauds Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) for their leadership in calling for critical safety improvements to legislation on autonomous vehicles (AVs), AV START Act, S.1885, pending in the United States Senate. The bill would allow for the mass deployment of millions of unproven AVs, or driverless cars, to be sold to consumers without fundamental safeguards in place. The public has expressed serious skepticism about a number of issues regarding the safety of AVs in numerous public opinion polls. Additionally, last week a broad coalition of state and national groups sent a letter to Senate leadership expressing strong objections to the lack of consumer and safety protections in S. 1885. The letter also shed light on the exaggerated predictions about the readiness of putting AVs on the market which is being used as a reason to rush the flawed legislation through Congress. Significant concerns included in both the Senators’ letter and the coalition’s letter must be addressed to prevent public roads from being turned into private proving grounds for AV manufacturers and all road users from serving as their crash test dummies.

As the Senators note, the AV START Act would permit an excessive number of exemptions from U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards to be granted to driverless cars that would be sold to the public and not just used in testing. The bill also preempts states and localities from taking basic steps to protect their citizens, even though the federal government has issued only voluntary and unenforceable guidelines. Other glaring omissions in the bill raised by the Senators’ letter include cybersecurity standards, minimum performance requirements for driverless cars, and any consideration for lower-level AV technology such as the Tesla Model S, which has been involved in at least two major crashes – one of which resulted in a fatality. These and other necessary changes will in no way inhibit the deployment of driverless cars. Instead, they will ensure that there is adequate government oversight, consumer protections and industry accountability.

Advocates believes that driverless cars have the potential to one day significantly reduce the unacceptable death and injury toll on our roads. However, we cannot ignore the very real and widespread concerns raised by the American public, over two dozen diverse state and national organizations and Senate safety champions. We commend Senators Feinstein, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Udall, and Markey for urging a measured approach to driverless cars that places public safety first.