What the auto world is saying about new U.S. policy on self-driving cars
The U.S. Department of Transportation today unveiled a policy for safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Automakers will be asked to assess the vehicle system design, development, testing and deployment work before a vehicle or system can be offered for sale or put into service on public roads. Automakers are to provide documentation and information covering 15 specific topics. Here’s how officials, executives and others are reacting.
“Audi applauds the Department of Transportation’s pledge to combine an unwavering focus on safety with flexibility as it considers this important leap forward. The goal of regulators and of innovators at this stage should be to give the public a clear and transparent understanding of what these vehicles can -- and cannot do -- so that the promise of dramatically enhanced road travel is realized. This will be a crucial journey that can only be accomplished by working together to avoid a patchwork of policies that could stymie technological development expected to someday save tens of thousands of lives per year.”
“The guidance about future plans released today by the federal government must be considered a first step in the process of ensuring that AVs [autonomous vehicles] are safe for the public. While we welcome innovation and the life-saving potential of AVs, we are concerned about life-threatening dangers in a rush to market. The improvements promised by AVs needs to be framed and encouraged by federal safety standards which DOT has the authority to issue today. The DOT must ensure that the American public is not used to “beta test” these new technologies. Beta testing, to eliminate program flaws, can be used for computer simulations but not for real world situations impacting life and death.”
-- Jacqueline Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
“This is an important step forward in establishing the basis of a national framework for the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Historically, the U.S. has been a pioneer and world leader in automotive technology. A federal approach to the self-driving industry will be key to enhancing motor vehicle safety while continuing to promote U.S. leadership, competitiveness and innovation. The operating guidance will help create the foundation necessary to inform industry and future regulatory and legislative efforts.
“We believe guidance from NHTSA is crucial to achieving these goals as it recognizes the challenges specific to regulating a new technology. We support guidance that provides for the standardization of self-driving policies across all 50 states, incentivizes innovation, supports rapid testing and deployment in the real world.”
-- The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets
“As we move closer to a future of automated vehicles, regulators will need to oversee advancements in safety technology without hampering innovation. This guidance report is an important step acknowledging the need for federal officials to collaborate effectively with manufacturers and state authorities to ensure we see the tremendous opportunities offered by these vehicles. As this collaborative process moves forward, I expect new needs for oversight and Congress’ role will come more clearly into focus.”
-- U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
“We are pleased that DOT is planning to address these issues and seeking public comment for this new system of transportation but it must not shy away from assuring public safety with minimum federal vehicle safety standards. It should not rely instead on mere guidance, including for the initial elements of automatic vehicle operation such as Automatic Emergency Brakes (AEB) that currently is only guided with a useless industry voluntary standard (it was the key element that failed in the Tesla fatal crashes.)”
-- Joan Claybrook, former administrator of NHTSA
“To help these new technologies come to market, we must have a clear and consistent national framework to avoid a patchwork of state laws that may inhibit innovation. I am pleased that NHTSA’s guidance addresses this issue, and I urge states to work with NHTSA and other stakeholders to that end.”
-- U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and co-founder of the Senate Smart Transportation Caucus
"Guidance is the right action to take since the technology is developing quickly and collaboration between automakers and NHTSA is critical to avoid policies that become outdated and inadvertently limit progress in reducing the number of crashes and saving lives. A policy that evolves is smart given the pace of technology.”
-- Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
“There’s an interesting dichotomy between the potential safety benefits of autonomous technology and the potential risk we’ll be facing as this tech goes from the trial-and-error to ready-for-prime-time. The DOT's guidelines clearly attempt to balance these issues by creating a far more responsive system for monitoring self-driving technology while allowing for quick course corrections as needed. The government doesn’t want to stifle autonomous innovation, particularly in an era when human-caused traffic fatalities are rising again. Yet one or two high-profile injuries or fatalities could set consumer acceptance of self-driving tech back years. There’s no clear pathway here, but the DOT has provided basic coordinates for a rudimentary map.”
-- Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book senior analyst
“Considering how quickly autonomous technology continues to advance, it was necessary for the DOT to come up with guidelines and frameworks for automakers and suppliers alike to follow. There needs to be uniformity so that if something does go wrong, the root causes can be identified more easily. In addition, consumers still view autonomous technology through a very wary lens and having controls and authority oversight may allay some fears.”
-- Akshay Anand , Kelley Blue Book analyst
“Global Automakers welcomes the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) leadership with the release of its automated vehicle guidance and model policy. A consistent national approach for this burgeoning technology is critically important as automated vehicles will advance vehicle safety, mobility and sustainability.”
-- John Bozzella, Global Automakers president and CEO
“The guidelines released are a crucial next step in establishing a strong federal role in providing oversight and guidance to the states; a welcome approach to avoid patchwork laws that might inhibit innovation or make the latest cutting-edge technology inaccessible to consumers.”
-- Gary Shapiro, Consumer Technology Association CEO
“Regulation can go too far. Government sometimes gets it wrong when it comes to rapidly changing technologies. That’s why this new policy is flexible and designed to evolve with new advances.
“There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.
“Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make no mistake: If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.”
-- President Barack Obama, in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is proud to support the Department as it releases its policy on automated vehicles because we see a future where self-driving cars will save thousands of lives on our roads. A self-driving car can’t get drunk. A self-driving car can’t get distracted. And a self-driving car will follow the traffic laws and prioritize safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
-- Colleen Sheehey-Church , National President of MADD
“Through my decades of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have witnessed first-hand the staggering burden in both resources and lives that oil dependence places on our military. If deployed properly, driverless cars will significantly increase quality of life for all Americans through improved safety and accessibility of transportation—and will also reduce our over-dependence on petroleum. The Energy Security Leadership Council looks forward to reviewing NHTSA’s recommendations, which are largely aligned with those we put forth in our National Strategy for Energy Security, to enable an ‘innovation-first’ approach that advances this critical technology.”
-- Gen. James T. Conway (Ret.), 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Co-Chair of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council
“The federal guidance also aligns to definitions from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) describing the levels of automation, a shift from NHTSA’s 2013 policy which was a competing standard in some ways. This creates a clearer and in some ways simpler framework for an ongoing conversation between industry stakeholders, advocates, and state and local governments that can help direct ongoing regulatory efforts as the industry continues to progress. This action is therefore a positive step in enabling progress in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.”
-- Jeremy Carlson, IHS Markit principal automotive analyst
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