Press Call on AV START and New Driverless Car Poll

  • July 23, 2018
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety



Contacts: Eric Naing, 217-493-8294,

Barbara Holzer, 202-631-6080,


Download the full Poll Report

Download the Press Kit including speakers’ statements

Download audio of the Press Call

New Poll Finds Overwhelming Public Concern About Sharing the Road with Driverless Cars

Safety, Consumer, Law Enforcement & Bicyclist Leaders, and Tech & Automation Experts Call on Senators to Fix Flawed Driverless Car Legislation and Not Attach it to FAA Bill

Today, leading safety, consumer and bicycling advocates, law enforcement, and tech and automation experts urged the U.S. Senate to add critical safeguards to the AV START Act (S. 1885), a bill that will set policy on autonomous vehicles (AVs), also known as driverless cars, for decades to come.  As early as this week, sponsors of the bill could attempt to “give it a ride” on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act (S. 1405).  This brazen attempt to rush the AV START Act and enable mass deregulation of AVs comes as a new ORC International public opinion poll released today finds that 69 percent of Americans are concerned about their safety when sharing the road with driverless vehicles as motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has several open investigations into crashes and failures of vehicles equipped with automated technology including the fatal Uber crash in Tempe, AZ.  The new poll found that 80 percent of Americans believe these crash investigations will be helpful in identifying problems and recommending improvements for this new technology.  Further, 84 percent of Americans want Congress to wait for the NTSB to complete its crash investigations before acting on driverless car legislation.

Today’s speakers provided a variety of viewpoints and expertise all concluding that the AV START Act should not be attached to the FAA bill and that common-sense improvements, which will help address the public’s concerns and ensure that driverless cars are developed and deployed safely, are urgently needed in the AV START Act. The following are quotes from the speakers:

Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “Right now, the United States Senate is preparing to consider the Nation’s first driverless car legislation known as the AV START Act (S. 1885).  While Advocates has always been on the forefront of supporting technologies to reduce the unacceptable motor vehicle death and injury toll, I am disappointed that we must oppose this bill unless critically-needed – and basic – safeguards are added.  Numerous public opinion polls show people are fearful of AVs, and 70 organizations representing public health, consumers, safety, bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities, engineers, researchers, environmentalists, law enforcement and first responders are all urging the Senate to prioritize safety and make improvements to this bill.”

Linda Bailey, Executive Director, National Association of City Transportation Officials: “Automated vehicles have the potential to make our streets safer, and cities welcome the many positive impacts that this new technology may have.  However, the AV START Act keeps cities in the dark – weakening cities’ ability to engage with private partners on safe operations, share data, and ensure that this new technology benefits everyone on our streets.”

Joan Claybrook, Former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and President Emeritus of Public Citizen: “Speeding through the AV START Act without essential safeguards will put all road users in danger and weaken public trust.  One of the most glaring deficiencies in the AV START Act is the failure to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adequate funding and authority to serve as an effective cop on the beat. Industry complains vehicle safety exemptions are needed because NHTSA cannot adapt to new technology quickly, but without funding, how can it?”

Dr. Mica R. Endsley, President of SA Technologies and Former Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force: “As currently written the AV Start Act will lead to the introduction of large fleets of autonomous vehicles on public roads that introduce unnecessary risks to road users.  While it is easy to point to accidents in which human drivers play a significant role, this neglects the strong safety component that experienced and knowledgeable drivers bring to the avoidance of accidents on a daily basis.  Human drivers currently average over 495,000 miles between accidents and over 95 million miles between fatal accidents. No automated vehicles have come remotely close to matching this record.”

Jack Gillis, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America: “One of the best ways to educate consumers about this new technology is to make safety information about driverless cars easily available online. It’s no surprise that the vast majority of consumers want this information. And it is especially important with AVs because there are currently no standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) that make it clear what AV features can, and cannot, do. This database must also let consumer know which AVs are exempt from federal safety standards.”

Dr. Shaun Kildare, Director of Research of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “One of the most specious arguments in the debate on the AV START Act is that the U.S. is losing ground, compared to other countries, in the race to develop the car of the future.  This falsity is being used to push for mass deregulation of this experimental technology so that our country keeps pace.  However, this claim is misleading at best and totally baseless at worst.”

Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety: “The fact is there is no urgent need for a federal law to allow for testing of autonomous vehicles because one already exists.  If AV START did not pass until next Congress, or never passed at all, driverless car testing could continue across the United States indefinitely.  Waymo has just passed the 8 million-mile mark in its testing of level 3 AVs on public roads, and their competitors are racing to catch up – all despite the absence of the AV START Act.  Alternatively, what AV START does is allow manufacturers not only to test but sell AVs to consumers in states where no testing has been done, where local authorities have not approved such activity, and local residents do not need to even be notified it is happening.”

J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police of the Montgomery County, MD and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association: “Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to save lives and bring about sweeping changes on our roads.  But right now, the technology is still in the testing phase and there are far more concerns and questions than there are data-driven conclusions.  And this is why it is essential that our country’s first driverless car law prioritize safety.  Unfortunately, the AV START Act in its current form falls short in protecting all road users.

Dr. Jeanna Matthews, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Clarkson University: “Attaching the AV START Act to a must-pass FAA bill is an egregious maneuver to avoid common sense investments in public safety, government oversight and industry accountability.  It would be a blank check to an industry that is not prepared to police itself. Computer security researchers, like me, know how easy it is to overestimate your company’s engineering abilities and underestimate both software flaws and the ability of attackers in a rush to market.”

Ken McLeod, Policy Director of the League of American Bicyclists: “By attaching AV START to another bill, Congress is not debating the merits of the bill or waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to complete its investigation of Elaine Herzberg’s death, which might provide insight on necessary safety provisions.  Automated Vehicles are too important to start off on the wrong foot.  Congress should wait for the NTSB to complete its investigation and Congress should ensure safety by requiring AVs to pass a ‘vision test’ so that the public knows they can detect, identify, and safely interact with all road users.”

William Wallace, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union: “Instead of setting reasonable, responsible standards for self-driving cars, the AV START Act takes a hands-off approach and puts consumers at risk. Sponsors of this highly controversial bill are trying to jam it through the Senate at a time when NHTSA, the federal auto safety agency, has become a less aggressive safety watchdog. The agency has failed to move forward any new auto safety rules or to modernize its 5-Star Safety Ratings system, and instead has been focused on rolling back consumer protections.”


Here are some additional links providing more information:

Dr. Missy Cummings’s chapter excerpt on the technical reasons for a “vision test” that can determine whether driverless cars can detect road obstacles like other vehicles, signs, pedestrians and bicyclists.

A letter from 70 safety, public health, bicyclists, pedestrians, smart growth, consumer and environmental groups, law enforcement and first responders, disability communities and families affected by motor vehicle crashes asking Senators not to attach the AV START Act to the FAA bill and to wait until the NTSB has finished its investigations on crashes involving vehicles with autonomous capabilities before moving the bill.

A letter from the National Association of City Transportation Officials opposing the AV START Act and outlining flaws with the bill.