Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Consumer Reports: Self-driving cars need federal safety rules and more innovation to thrive

Department of Transportation’s new guidance on automated vehicles falls far short, says CR 


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday released the fourth edition of voluntary guidelines for the development of automated vehicles and their roll-out to the market.


According to Consumer Reports, this document — primarily a summary of federal government activities related to automation — makes clear that the Department continues to fail to take the steps necessary to accelerate the development of safe self-driving cars. This lack of action is happening even as the limitations of today’s technology have become more apparent, and after the National Transportation Safety Board recently found that weak government oversight was a contributing factor to the March 2018 death of a pedestrian hit by an Uber test vehicle in Tempe, Arizona.


“Secretary Chao says that safety is the top priority. If that’s the case, then the DOT’s principles for self-driving cars should be reflected in binding standards, not voluntary guidelines,” said Ethan Douglas, senior policy analyst for cars and product safety at Consumer Reports. “People will only choose self-driving cars in great numbers if they know they are safe, and it is the DOT’s role to ensure that they are. There’s also so much that the Department can and should do today to save lives, including requiring proven safety features to be standard on all new vehicles — like Europe is doing — and setting safety rules for active driver-assist systems like Tesla’s Autopilot.


“The DOT is supposed to ensure that the U.S. has the safest transportation system in the world, but it continues to put this mission second, behind helping industry rush automated vehicles. That’s not leadership, and it is going to erode people’s trust in the technology,” Douglas added. “True leadership would be setting a bar for companies to reach through innovation. After all, there’s a reason why today’s new cars are safer than ever: technologies brought to market thanks to federal safety standards and five-star safety ratings.”




Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262


Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.