Statement on Autonomous Vehicles Rule

  • January 14, 2021
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)

Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), On Autonomous Vehicles Rule

Efforts to Bend Rules to Accommodate AV Manufacturers Ignore the Biggest Safety Concern for AVs: Will They Crash?



Today’s action by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the culmination of a preoccupation with kowtowing to the auto industry’s priority of removing so-called regulatory barriers in order to facilitate the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs).  While we expected nothing less, this misdirection should not go unnoticed or overlooked.

At the heart of the problem lies NHTSA’s failure to advance commonsense rules detailing minimum performance standards for autonomous driving systems (ADS).  A self-driving vehicle should be able to drive itself safely.  This is not some kind of new-fangled demand.  It is the natural extension of an existing process, where regulators identify safety-critical automotive features and require manufacturers to certify that the vehicles they sell to the public meet basic safety standards.  It is not too much to ask that technologies in which billions have been invested are required to operate safely.  Today’s announced final rule once again sidesteps this important issue, which must be resolved  to ensure that this potentially revolutionary technology lives up to the promises.

By the industry’s admission, mass deployment of AVs is far in the future.  A move to fast track AV deployment today without proper safeguards jeopardizes acceptance of this technology by the public, which, understandably, strongly favors minimum performance standards.

If the U.S. DOT was truly interested in stopping 36,000 people from being killed in preventable crashes every year, it would have at least initiated rulemakings to advance proven technologies such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot detection (BSD) as well as advanced technology to prevent impaired driving.  Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveal the lifesaving potential of these innovations, with significant crash reductions found in vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and the potential of more than 9,000 lives saved each year if alcohol detection systems were more widely deployed.

We urge the newly seated 117th Congress and the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize the safety of all road users by advancing these research-based, verified safety solutions.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.