Robbie Miller's story is chilling: The veteran of the autonomous vehicle movement says he effectively predicted Uber's fatal crash, and his warning was ignored until it was too late.
His takeaways, as explained to Automotive News for our "Shift" podcast and a front-page story, are all about what companies and their leaders should do to ensure the safe deployment of automated vehicles. Namely, that they should be open to anyone's reasoned concerns about putting innocent people at risk and halt testing when in doubt.
The episode may not offer a clear road map for regulators, but it shows the need for a national policy and uniform set of rules for the safety of our citizens and our industry.
Companies that figure out the best solutions first may reshape the world as we know it. Investors and municipalities, eager to reap the benefits, are pushing to be a part of the process and to speed it along. Such a technological race, taking place on America's roads, is going to bring about unintended costs on — you guessed it — the incumbent auto industry and the people of the U.S.
It's better to get ahead of tragic mistakes and courtroom finger-pointing. Good safety rules can engender consumer trust in the new technologies, while also providing a measure of legal protection when mistakes are made.
When Congress returns to Washington next month, it needs to dig in and craft regulations that balance the desire for progress with the need for safety.
In the previous attempt to pass legislation related to automated driving technology, the auto and tech industries sought provisions that would ensure operational and crash data from their systems would stay hidden from public purview. This is shortsighted.
Miller argues for a system that ensures third parties can review and audit the competence of self-driving systems. A legislative posture that allows such third parties — think of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or AAA — to vet the technology would provide a needed check on self-driving developers and operators.
We need rules that are strong and clear, understandable and amendable, and efficiently enforceable. The legislation needs to have broad-based support, so that the White House can feel confident it will help advance this vital industry.