Current vehicle safety rules in the United States dictate that motor vehicles must have traditional controls such as a steering wheel, mirrors and foot pedals before they are allowed to operate on the roads. According to a report in The Verge, all that could change under a new plan released Oct. 4 by the Department of Transportation, which is intended to open the floodgates for fully driverless cars. Regulators say they will look to change existing safety standards to make room for automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards that are relevant only when human drivers are present.
The Go-Ahead for Driverless Vehicles
So, these types of changes would pave the way for Waymo and General Motors to release hundreds of thousands of fully driverless vehicles on public roadways. This week, GM also announced its plans to join hands with Honda and produce an autonomous vehicle without traditional controls. Automakers are currently required to meet 75 safety standards, many of which are written with the assumption that a licensed driver will control the vehicle.
The move to change this basic presumption comes at time when there is a lot of doubt over this new technology. In March, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The backup driver in that case was streaming a show on her phone when the accident occurred. After this accident, Uber suspended testing of driverless vehicles. Safety advocates said the crash showed the system simply wasn’t there yet and wasn’t ready to be tested on public roads.
Safety Remains a Serious Concern
Safety advocates have already criticized this move saying that changing the rules will simply gift all power to the tech and auto industries. Our auto defect lawyers have long maintained that doing away with rules is not the way to accomplish better levels of vehicle safety. In fact, history has shown us that inadequate regulation leads to dangerous and defective vehicles. When the government tightens up regulations and enforces them, the impact can be seen in the form of safer, higher-quality vehicles.
Tech and auto companies need to do more to win the trust of the public when it comes to driverless cars. They won’t get it by thrusting vehicles that are not ready for primetime down our throats. The technology needs to be vetted. We the public are not guinea pigs for these corporations.