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 ChaoTrump administration cancels 9M for high-speed rail in California US halts flights to Venezuela Melania Trump expands mission of 'Be Best' on its one-year anniversary 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 ThuneThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight Immigration fight imperils deal on disaster aid package MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersSenate Commerce chair to renew push for regs on self-driving vehicles Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems 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 FeinsteinFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general This week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — CBO officials testify on pros and cons of 'Medicare for All' | Booker vows to form White House office on abortion rights | Measles outbreak spreads with cases now in half the country Lee, Sanders introduce bill to tax Wall Street transactions MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks Markey releases infrastructure suggestions that align with Green New Deal goals GOP senator announces bill to block companies from tracking online activity MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info Senate panel rejects requiring Congress sign off before Iran strike Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change 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.