Congress Thinks Self-Driving Cars are Scary
Hearings in the House of Representatives are dominating the spotlight, but one in the Senate this month could have repercussions across the automotive industry. We’re talking about last Wednesday’s Commerce Committee hearing about autonomous cars.
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Senators from both parties decried the lack of industry compliance to safety recommendations. The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked for companies running self-driving car trials on public roads to complete an assessment. The companies didn’t even need a member from either regulator to come to the testing area, as their staff could fill out the forms. Of the about 80 companies with driverless cars on the road, only 16 of them have sent in the paperwork.
Statistics like this got the hearing off on a rocky start, with Senator Roger Wicker, the Republican committee chair, bringing up the death of Elaine Herzberg in his opening statement. She is officially the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving car. After that, Senator Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, compared an unregulated rollout of self-driving cars to consumers to the disastrous Boeing 737 MAX 8.
The head of NHTSA James Owens tried to soothe the senators’ fears by saying that the release of autonomous cars are years away. The committee tasked him with pressuring self-driving car researchers like Tesla and Uber to beef up their software and keep an open line of communication with the government.
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It’s a comfort to know that no matter what party is in power, it seems like lawmakers are genuinely concerned about road safety and the progression of self-driving cars. It remains to be seen if this will help or hurt the development of this budding technology.
News Source: CNBC
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