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 ChaoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards 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 ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersGOP challenger outraises Michigan's Sen. Peters in first quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Senate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers 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 FeinsteinCOVID-19 and the coming corruption pandemic Encryption helps America work safely — and that goes for Congress, too Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandStates battle each other for equipment in supply chain crunch The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocratic senators question Google over decision to release coronavirus location data Why being connected really matters for students On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories 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.