I hate when people ask if I’m for or against vehicle automation. It’s not a black-and-white issue. Some think if you get humans away from controlling cars, we’ll suddenly live in a utopian society where getting anywhere takes about five minutes. There was a movie about that, Tron Legacy, and that perfect world didn’t turn out so great.
On the other side are those who believe autonomous cars infringe on Constitutional rights. Thankfully, others realize just how complex the issue is. Unfortunately, not a lot of them are lawmakers.
Automotive News covered how Joan Claybrook, the former head of NHTSA, really gave members of Congress a piece of her mind. You may not know, but safety standards for autonomous cars are being loosened left and right, all in the name of progress. Claybrook isn’t impressed by this fast-and-loose style, calling it “inadequate.”
She pointed out that lowering standards means consumers will be the ones fully testing out autonomous tech. That puts lives at risk, and really is just plain irresponsible. There’s a reason why automakers put new vehicle designs through extensive testing before offering them to customers.
What’s being argued in the Senate right now is a bill that would let NHTSA give automakers a pass on federal safety standards for self-driving cars. This bill already passed a House vote in September. If the Senate passes the bill, the only hope of it not becoming law is a veto from the President, and that won’t happen.
The auto industry has a bad track record of half-baked safety devices. Just look at the whole Takata fiasco, or Ford and Firestone, the Ford Pinto – I could go on. At least Claybrook and some other people have some sense about things.