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 ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Kathy Griffin offers her guesses on anti-Trump op-ed author A fuel-economy change that protect freedom and saves lives 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 ThuneMore Dems want focus on job creation than wage growth Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month Trump gets good news on wages MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersLawmakers move to award posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Bipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure 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 FeinsteinTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Hillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandEx-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' Overnight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site Former Virginia Gov. McAuliffe to visit Iowa, fueling 2020 speculation MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (Mass.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Senate Dems want DOJ review of Giuliani's work for foreign entities McCain's former chief of staff considering Senate bid as Democrat 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.