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Flawed Driverless Car Bill Would Endanger Road Users and Should Not Be Allowed to ‘Hitch a Ride’ on Must-Pass End-of-Year Legislation


Our Nation’s first driverless car legislation, which will impact the safety of all road users for the foreseeable future, should not be rushed through Congress behind closed doors and without careful consideration and a full debate.  But that is exactly what industry lobbyists and other proponents of the AV START Act (S. 1885) are trying to do by seeking to attach it to a must-pass bill in the waning hours of the 115th Congress.

Multiple crashes involving vehicles equipped with highly and partially automated driving systems, some of which are under open investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), offer real-world evidence that driverless cars simply are not ready for prime time.  Even auto and tech industry executives making these vehicles have publicly stated that driverless cars that can safely handle most driving situations are likely decades away from broad deployment.  Yet, proponents of the AV START Act are trying to usher through this bill with significant accessibility, transparency and safety flaws and omissions that would allow companies to sell mass quantities of unproven driverless cars that don’t meet federal safety standards.

Our neighborhood streets should not be turned into industry proving grounds.  Unless crucial safeguards called for by a broad coalition are added to AV START, Senators should oppose this dangerous bill and reject any attempts to circumvent open discussion and debate by attaching it to must-pass legislation.  We believe driverless vehicles may have the potential to reduce crashes and improve accessibility, but it is clear that day is still far away.  Rushing through a driverless vehicle bill that lacks fundamental safeguards will make our roads less safe and risks turning an already skeptical public even more against this technology.

Linda Bailey, Executive Director, National Association of City Transportation Officials
Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus of Public Citizen and Former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Curt Decker, Executive Director of National Disability Rights Network
David Friedman, Vice President, Advocacy of Consumer Reports
Jack Gillis, Executive Director of Consumer Federation of America
Stephen W. Hargarten, M.D., MPH of Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research
Jason Levine, Executive Director of Center for Auto Safety
Dr. Jeanna Matthews, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Clarkson University
Andrew McGuire, Executive Director of Trauma Foundation
Caron Whitaker, Vice President, Government Relations of League of American Bicyclists