Consumer Advocates Reprimand NHTSA for Response to Fatal Tesla Crash

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Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Joan Claybrook joined Consumer Watchdog and the Center For Auto Safety in reprimanding NHTSA for its response to the fatal crash of Tesla Model S operating in Autopilot mode.

In a Thursday letter, the advocates said they are “dumbfounded” that NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind hasn’t shown any signs of slowing his agency’s efforts to integrate autonomous cars onto America’s highways following the deadly May 7 accident. They requested the data to support recent remarks from Rosekind where he said that 94 percent of car crashes that can be tied back to human error.

The advocates also critiqued Rosekind’s statement that “no one incident will derail the Department of Transportation and NHTSA from its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new lifesaving technologies.”

The groups called that a “false dichotomy.”

“The question is not whether autonomous technology must be perfect before it hits the road, but whether safety regulators should allow demonstrably dangerous technology with no minimum safety performance standards in place, to be deployed on American highways,” they wrote, adding that the technology “should only be implemented after thorough testing and a public rulemaking that sets enforceable safety standards.”

The NHTSA is one of three federal agencies investigating the Tesla crash. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the driver had been using the “Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer lane keeping assistance” features and speeding at the time of the accident.

Amir Nasr

Amir covers tech policy and politics for Morning Consult. You can reach him via email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @amir_anasr.

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