TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- When it comes to shaping regulation and safety standards for autonomous vehicles, Jennifer Dukarski wants the fox to watch the hen house.
Dukarski, an automotive technology attorney who spoke at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars on Monday, believes the auto industry's leading groups, such as SAE International and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, must play an active role in crafting the policies that will govern the adoption of autonomous vehicles.
"While that might make some advocacy groups uncomfortable, we are seeing the framework needed to launch these vehicles come from auto industry insiders," Dukarski, an attorney from Butzel Long's office in Ann Arbor, Mich., said in an interview last week before her appearance here.
The federal government, particularly NHTSA, has been slow and faces many challenges in developing safety standards and testing protocols for the fleets of self-driving cars that companies such as Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and General Motors hope to deploy on public roads.
Two challenges — the availability of agency resources and the timing needed to develop enforceable rules — leave NHTSA in a position to turn to industry support groups for help in crafting standards on safety and cybersecurity for self-driving vehicles, Dukarski told Automotive News.
Consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles has been eroding in the wake of recent crashes, such as the fatal Uber accident in Arizona and mishaps involving semiautonomous systems in Tesla vehicles.
Dukarski raised concerns about states stepping into the regulatory vacuum, creating their own regulations and legislation on the level of acceptable autonomy.
"It's not just the states. Cities are now evaluating regulations on where you can drive autonomous vehicles and where you can't," Dukarski said. "As an example, L.A. may eventually have different regulations from San Francisco."
The resulting patchwork of laws, some of which can be contradictory, can complicate matters for automakers and are likely to delay the mass rollout of autonomous vehicles.
"Congress ought to pass a comprehensive measure to get a good groundwork established, so that states don't create their own rules," Dukarski said. "This would bring some level of certainty for auto manufacturers and mobility services as we move forward."
If not, embracing standards created by industry groups such as SAE and IEEE will help fill in the gaps as legislators and regulators move to catch up, the attorney said.