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 ChaoSaluting FOIA on its birthday House passes bill to strengthen authority of federal watchdogs Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' 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 rallies around Manchin, Sinema McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Democrat on controversial Schumer speech: Timing 'may not have been the best' MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersSinema fundraising in Europe as reconciliation talks 'ongoing': report Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress looks to strengthen government's aging cyber infrastructure Peters presses TikTok on how company addresses conspiracy, extremist content 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 FeinsteinJane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Biden faces pressure to pass infrastructure bills before climate summit Senate Democrat says Facebook offers 'crocodile tears about protecting children' MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin 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.