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Senate “Bipartisan” Robot Car Bill Threatens Highway Safety, Consumer Watchdog Warns

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 01:17

SANTA MONICA, CA – An autonomous vehicles bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate follows the dangerous route chosen by the House of Representatives when it rushed to pass a bill that threatens highway safety and leaves a regulatory void rather than enacting necessary protections and safety standards, Consumer Watchdog warned today.

The bipartisan American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act introduced today is scheduled to be “marked up” by the Senate Commerce Committee next week.

“Bipartisanship is worthless when it produces a dangerous bill,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

The AV START Act, would leave a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers, Consumer Watchdog said. The bill pre-empts any state safety standards, but there are none yet in place at the national level.

“Pre-empting the states’ ability to fill the void left by federal inaction leaves us at the mercy of manufacturers as they use our public highways as their private laboratories however they wish with no safety protections at all,” said Simpson.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs do its job and Congress should give the agency the money to do it,” said Simpson. “The sad reality is that President Trump hasn’t even bothered to nominate a NHTSA administrator.”

NHTSA’s latest autonomous vehicle guidance repeatedly reiterates the entirely voluntary nature of any reporting by automakers.

“In fact, the new NHTSA robot car guidelines don’t require automakers to do anything at all,” said Simpson.

The Department of Transportation has completely ignored a committee, the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation (ACAT) created by the Obama Administration to offer advice on autonomous vehicle policy. It has not met since Trump took office.

Self-driving car developers claim to worry about a so-called state-by-state patchwork of conflicting safety regulations, that they claim would hamper innovation.

“That’s nonsense.  If NHTSA enacted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous vehicles they would automatically preempt state safety regulations,” said Simpson. “The Senate bill is nothing more than show-boating that actually puts Consumers at risk.”

Consumer Watchdog’s has released an in-depth study, “Self-Driving Vehicles: The Threat to Consumers.” Read the report here.

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