Coalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars

Coalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars
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A coalition of organizations across the country is calling on Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMcConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Protesters confront McConnell leaving Kentucky restaurant The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Wild night of primaries reshapes 2018 midterms MORE to take part in stricter oversight of driverless cars.

In a letter signed by more than 25 organizations, the group’s leaders call the Transportation Department (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “detached spectators instead of engaged safety regulators” on autonomous vehicles.

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“We urge DOT, under your watch, to encourage and oversee the development and deployment of life changing and lifesaving motor vehicle technologies by issuing minimum performance standards instead of ‘voluntary guidelines’, providing consumers with essential information on the capabilities and limitations of autonomous vehicles, and rigorously enforcing current legal mandates for industry to immediately report problems,” the letter reads.

“Regardless of Congressional activity on [autonomous vehicles], DOT’s obligation to carry out its mission of ensuring a safe transportation system must be met.”

Twenty-six groups signed the letter, including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Consumer Action and the American Public Health Association. The deputy administrator of NHTSA is also copied on the document.

The letter comes as legislation that would speed up the development and testing of autonomous vehicles remains stuck in the Senate after unanimously passing through the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last year.

A group of stakeholders earlier this month pressed the Senate to expedite the passage of the American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act.

But a group of Democratic senators last week in a letter to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersDem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' Judge on Trump shortlist boasts stint on Michigan's high court NTSB won't investigate Tesla that crashed into parked police car MORE (D-Mich.) expressed concern over whether the legislation would impose adequate safety measures.

“We are concerned that the bill indefinitely preempts state and local safety regulations even if federal safety standards are never developed,” Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems launch pressure campaign over migrant families California Dems endorse progressive challenger over Feinstein Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandMidterms will show voters are tired of taking back seat to Wall Street McConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Dem senator: Kavanaugh would 'turn back the clock' on women's health care MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns Hillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE (N.M.) wrote.

The coalition’s letter to Chao argues the Transportation Department should analyze safety technologies “before they even enter the marketplace.”

"This is the most effective and assured approach to prevent unproven and potentially dangerous technologies from being sold to the public and allowed on public streets and highways across the country,” the groups wrote.

- This story was updated March 20, at 7:01 p.m.