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Consumers Union to U.S. Senate: Don’t Rush Self-Driving Cars Bill

– Proposed AV START Act Needs Important Safety Improvements for Consumers
– Senate Committee To Hold Hearing Today Before Washington Auto Show

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 24, 2018)—Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, today called on members of the U.S. Senate not to rush a bill addressing self-driving cars, and instead take the necessary time to strengthen the bill’s safety protections. The legislation, known as the AV START Act, is expected to be discussed at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today preceding the start of the 2018 Washington Auto Show.

“We’re excited about the promise of self-driving cars, and we know senators can do better for their constituents, and for the safety of everyone on the road,” said David Friedman, Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis for Consumers Union. “Right now, we’re concerned that companies are competing to be the first, not the safest. Instead of cheering on that race, Senate legislation should require safety first, regardless of whether a human or software is doing the driving.”

Consumers Union has previously expressed major concerns about how the AV START Act would undermine consumer safeguards. The bill would dramatically expand the number of cars that could be allowed on the road that do not meet federal safety standards, require company safety reports in lieu of setting binding rules, and limit the ability of states and localities to take action to keep roads safe or to close gaps in protections that exist. The bill also fails to require manufacturers to publicly back up their safety claims by sharing the safety data behind them. The organization has told Senate offices that the legislation, as written, is not ready for passage.

“The AV START Act has critical weaknesses that policymakers must fix before moving this sweeping bill forward,” said William Wallace, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union. “The bill would fundamentally change how the federal government and states oversee vehicle safety, yet key safety gaps remain unaddressed. Instead of ignoring these problems, or rushing to push the bill through, senators should take time to establish a reasonable safety framework that would better protect consumers.”

Consumers Union has consistently advocated for more robust protections in the emerging automated vehicle landscape. The organization has educated policymakers with Consumer Reports test results and journalism, urged action against unsafe or misleading features, and provided feedback on legislative proposals, both informally and in testimony before Congress.

As Congress continues to work on legislation, Consumers Union will carefully evaluate new or amended provisions and push lawmakers to produce a strong bill that ensures the safety of everyone who shares the road.

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262, ext. 7416

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 7 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its policy and mobilization division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.