Consumer Groups: Stop Adoption of Driverless Cars Until They’re Safe

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Four consumer advocacy groups called on the Obama administration to halt its plan to assimilate driverless cars onto America’s roads until “adequate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous technologies are implemented through a public rulemaking process.”

The coalition said the need for such rules is underscored by a May 7 crash of a Tesla Model S operating in Autopilot mode that killed the vehicle’s driver.

“The error in rushing autonomous vehicle technology into cars and onto public highways without enforceable safety rules was underscored by the recent tragic fatal crash,” the groups said in a Wednesday letter to President Obama. “‘Autopilot’ technology that cannot sense a white truck in its path, and that fails to brake when a collision is imminent, has no place on public roads.”

The Autopilot feature, which the company doesn’t consider autonomous driving, automatically switches lanes and helps with steering. Tesla says the technology is still in public beta mode and drivers must confirm they know this before starting its use.

Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen and former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, signed onto the letter, along with the leaders of Consumer Watchdog, Center for Auto Safety and the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

The groups expressed frustration that the White House’s driverless car policies have so far been crafted “in the shadows.”

“The rules of the road for automated technologies that would dramatically alter transportation in this country should be developed thoughtfully, in the light of day and with the highest level of transparency and public participation,” the groups wrote. They requested that Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind pledge they won’t work for any driverless car companies for at least seven years, and that Obama demand the same.

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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