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Joint statement on failure of controversial driverless car bill, opportunities to safely advance driving automation in 2019

Defective Driverless Car Legislation Fails to Advance, Paving the Way for a Better and Safer Bill in 2019

Safety and Consumer Advocates Thank Congressional Leaders for Their Efforts to Improve Dangerous and Deadly Flaws — Pledge to Work Together to Safely Advance New Vehicle Technologies

WASHINGTON, DC (Dec. 21, 2018) — Leading safety and consumer organizations responded to the failure of the controversial driverless car bill, the AV START Act (S. 1885), to be enacted this year.  Although Congress is still grappling with passage of a funding measure and a partial government shutdown may be imminent, the AV START Act is not included in any legislation being considered and will not be taken up before the end of this session.  The AV START Act was a deeply flawed and incomplete bill that would have set government and industry policy on the development and public sale of driverless cars for decades to come.  Supporters of the bill were attempting to pass it by including it in a final government spending bill instead of allowing it to be voted on through the more traditional floor vote process.

In the next Congress, it is expected that AV legislation will be taken up again.  This will be an opportunity to turn the technology’s promise of safety and other consumer benefits into reality.  Consumer and safety groups will work with House and Senate Members to develop legislation that advances new, potential lifesaving technologies as well as sound policies requiring government oversight and industry accountability.

Objectionable provisions in the AV START Act seriously jeopardized public safety by allowing for the mass sale of potentially millions of driverless cars exempt from current federal safety rules; failing to require the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to finalize a single minimum federal safety standard for new experimental self-driving systems; and, ignoring critical requirements that essential data and information be provided to consumers, regulators and investigators.  In addition to dropping these anti-safety and anti-consumer proposals, new legislation should direct DOT to promulgate minimum performance standards for issues like cybersecurity, electronics, driver engagement, as well as a “vision test” for self-driving vehicles.

A number of House and Senate Members shared the serious concerns of public health and safety groups.  In particular, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), among many others, fought for essential reforms and improvements to the faulty legislation.  We thank them for their leadership and commitment to safety and consumer protections.

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David Friedman, Vice President, Advocacy for Consumer Reports, and former Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “It was heartening to see the efforts by all the members who put safety first and helped keep the dangerous provisions in AV START from becoming the law of the land. A reckless pursuit of self-driving cars wouldn’t have delivered on the technology’s promise—it would only have stalled it. We invite policymakers, automakers, and tech companies to take a different approach in the new Congress: sit down with consumer, public health, disability and other groups to craft policies that will deliver real protections while advancing safe, well-designed self-driving cars for all. At the end of the day, 37,133 deaths in U.S. car crashes last year isn’t a statistic. It’s 37,133 loved ones, friends, and members of our community who can’t be replaced. This is life and death. Let’s get it right.”

For the full joint statement, click here.

IssuesCars