The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has condemned the lack of state and federal regulations for testing autonomous vehicles. According to a news report, the board criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government’s road safety agency, for failing to lead when it comes to regulating tests on public roadways. It also said states need to adopt their own regulations.
Lack of Oversight and Regulation
NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said NHTSA has put technological advancement ahead of saving lives. She said there have been no requirements, evaluation or real standards when it comes to autonomous vehicles. NHTSA has issued voluntary guidelines including safety assessment reports from autonomous vehicle companies. However, only 16 have filed these reports. There are 62 companies with permits to test driverless vehicles in California.
The agency has avoided regulations in favor of allowing the technology to move forward using the argument that such technology is lifesaving. NTSB staffers also told the board that NHTSA has no mechanism to evaluate the companies’ safety reports. And since they are not required, few companies are even bothering to submit them.
NTSB has now voted to recommend that NHTSA require companies to turn in these reports and establish a process to evaluate them. They’ve also recommended that NHTSA set up safeguards including making sure companies show that they are monitoring vehicle operators to ensure they are being attentive during the tests. In addition, NTSB officials have asked states to require tech companies to turn in applications to test driverless vehicles on public roads. At a minimum, the application should require a plan to manage operator inattentiveness and risks.
Putting Profits Before People
The Uber crash in Arizona where a driverless vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, sent aftershocks through the auto industry and Silicon Valley. In that case, a designated safety driver was inattentive and was streaming programming on her cell phone while operating the vehicle. Investigators have also disclosed that Uber’s own system did not have the ability to brake automatically relying on a human backup driver to do that job.
The auto defect lawyers at Bisnar Chase have consistently maintained that automakers and tech companies are not doing their due diligence when it comes to testing driverless cars. States like Arizona have been too eager to welcome tech companies to test on their roadways. But they have done little to ensure the safety of others on the road. Driverless technology may be inevitable, but it certainly should not come at the expense of public safety. It is unacceptable for tech companies and automakers to conduct their experiments on public roadways.