NTSB investigation finds lax safety practices, weak oversight; CR calls for strong safety rules
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports today called for substantial safety improvements to the testing and development of self-driving cars, after the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of its investigation into an Uber test vehicle that struck and killed an Arizona woman in 2018.
The NTSB attributed the crash to a wide range of factors, including sweeping failures by Uber to sufficiently account for safety and an inattentive backup driver. The investigative board also noted that government agencies at both the federal and state level have failed to put in place requirements for verifying the safety of test vehicles used to develop self-driving cars.
“This is a pivotal moment for road safety, and should be a wake-up call for companies testing and developing self-driving cars. Companies must put safety first,“ said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.
“These developing systems are still far from perfect and require human oversight. But as the technology advances, it becomes even more difficult for the driver to stay engaged. It’s critical for companies to install systems to verify driver engagement. Without effective driver monitoring, any human in the car is being set up to fail,” Fisher added.
After reviewing preliminary NTSB documents, Consumer Reports said previously that Uber was responsible for “outrageous safety lapses” and that the company’s test vehicle was far too dangerous to be tested anywhere other than a closed track. CR today said the full NTSB findings and recommendations underscore critical lessons not just for Uber, but also for the full auto industry, and for the federal and state regulators that are supposed to protect the public’s safety.
“The NTSB’s hearing made it clear that the U.S. Department of Transportation and many state governments are utterly failing to make sure self-driving car testing is being done safely. It’s the Wild West right now, and it puts the public at risk,” said William Wallace, manager of safety policy for Consumer Reports.
“DOT and states should require self-driving car developers to prove their test vehicles’ safety before using them on public roads, based on rigorous evidence shared publicly and validated by independent third parties. If companies don’t put safety first, they’ll be risking people’s lives – not to mention their own viability – and should be held accountable under the law for the consequences,” Wallace added.
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