Remarks by Cathy Chase, President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
July 25, 2023
Safety leaders, victims’ advocates and others will voice their concerns about legislation on autonomous vehicles (AVs) which does not include needed safeguards and regulations to protect all road users
Good Morning. I am Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Thank you for joining us today on the important topic of autonomous vehicle, or AV, safety.
- This press conference is being recorded and will be made available after the event on our website at saferoads.org.
- We will only take questions from members of the press via the Q&A feature in the Zoom window.
Tomorrow the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce will hold a hearing entitled: “Self-Driving Vehicle Legislative Framework: Enhancing Safety, Improving Lives and Mobility, and Beating China.”
The hearing will focus on proposed legislation that, in its current form, would allow expansive deployment of AVs without commonsense regulations and safeguards to protect all road users.
With nearly 43,000 people killed on our Nation’s roadways in 2021, it is clear that we need our leaders and policymakers to advance proven solutions to address this public health crisis. There is no independent evidence that AVs will do so. In fact, what we do know is that the AVs on public roads have caused havoc. So far, one human and one dog have been killed. AVs also have:
- entered a live shooting crime scene,
- been involved in nearly 20 incidents documented by the San Francisco Fire Department in which AVs put firefighters and the public at risk,
- made planned and unplanned stops in travel lanes that have interfered with transit service, and
- blocked traffic and intruded into construction zones where City employees were working.
We hope it will not take additional fatalities and more dangerous outcomes to slow the rollout of AVs, fix the known problems with them, and develop laws and regulations that protect the safety of all road users.
Most certainly, any legislation should not erode current federal safety standards, should not allow for tens of thousands of AVs to be exempt from safety regulations, should not restrict states and localities from taking action to protect their residents and visitors, and should not allow AV manufacturers to deploy and sell their vehicles without needed oversight and accountability.
Rather, what is needed are regulations to protect the public. For example, when one goes to get a driver’s license, they are required to take a vision test. With AVs taking over the task of “seeing” and responding to all people, vehicles and objects in the roadway environments, there needs to be a minimum safety standard to make certain it can accomplish this task. This is just one example of the regulations needed. Ensuring collision avoidance, cybersecurity, data collection, and accessibility for all, among others are also necessary.
A public opinion survey we commissioned earlier this year confirmed support for this approach. It found that Americans across the country and across generations are concerned with driverless cars and trucks on our roadways. Four out of five respondents reported being concerned about sharing the roads with driverless cars, but a strong majority said their concerns would be addressed with federal regulations.
Establishing these needed protections and innovating solutions to improve safety are complementary goals. In fact, auto manufacturers have been improving the safety of cars for decades. Advanced airbags, electronic stability control, and rearview cameras are proof that innovation and safety can be mutually accomplished with the direction of safety standards. This goal will be hampered if Congress “turns over the keys” to AV manufacturers and lets them plow forward without commonsense regulations, accountability and oversight.