Consumer Reports and a former U.S. road-safety czar have joined a coalition demanding public oversight of self-driving cars after Google’s recent at-fault crash. On Valentine’s Day in Mountain View, a Google robot Lexus SUV sideswiped a bus. For the first time, a Google driverless car had responsibility for a crash, the company admitted.
On Thursday, Consumer Reports’ policy arm Consumers Union, and three other consumer and safety groups sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) head Mark Rosekind.
“The rules of the road for automated technologies that would dramatically alter transportation in this country should be developed in the light of day with the highest level of transparency and public participation,” said the letter. The letter was also signed by representatives from Consumer Watchdog, the Center for Auto Safety, Consumers For Auto Reliability and Safety, and Joan Claybrook, who headed the NHTSA under President Jimmy Carter.
The group wants the U.S. government to create “an easily accessible public docket for all documents and comments related to autonomous vehicle technology and policy, including any company’s petition for exemption from safety regulations.” Coalition members also want a public meeting to help create a model state policy and to address other policy issues around robotic cars. And they want the two federal officials to meet with consumer and safety advocates.
Google spokesman Johnny Luu said the company supported public oversight.
“Self-driving cars have the potential to save lives and improve mobility for those who cannot drive,” Luu said. “We agree that the public should be included in an open and transparent process that gets this technology safely onto our roads.”