27 organizations incl. MoBikeFed to Congress: Automakers Need to Demonstrate Safety and Basic Capabilities of Autonomous Cars Before Live Testing Proceeds | Jalopnik

Headlines are quick hits from media outlets from Missouri and around the world. Follow the headline link for the full story. The source of this headline says:

Since last summer, legislation that would regulate the deployment of self-driving cars has been kicking around the U.S. Congress. Given the frenetic pace of, uh, all the other stuff happening in D.C. right now, it hasn’t been much of a priority.

But automakers would like to see something passed, for a few reasons: the proposed bills primarily allow automakers to eventually deploy up to 100,000 vehicles annually that are exempt from existing auto safety standards. Currently, lawmakers can only seek an exemption for 2,500 vehicles. And rather than have a scattershot of state laws, federal legislation would establish some sense of uniformity.

There must be a growing sense that pro-autonomous car lawmakers are preparing to take the bills up again, because a broad coalition of public interest organizations has issued a stinging letter that urges automakers to pump the brakes and take their time, according to Automotive News.

Pay the automakers no mind, they say—they’re just inflating the inflating the expectations of autonomous cars. (For what it’s worth, that’s basically true.)

The group’s letter straight up says automakers have misled the public about self-driving cars, reports Automotive News:

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Charles Schumer, the coalition said automotive and technology companies have misled the public about how soon automated vehicles will be widely available and how regulation is an impediment to innovation in the global race to harness mobility solutions with the potential to reduce traffic fatalities, congestion and air pollution.

“Baseless and exaggerated predictions about the readiness and reliability of driverless car technology are propelling legislation that significantly strips the current federal regulatory system of its appropriate authority and oversight thereby endangering the safety of everyone — both motorists and non-motorists,” said the 27 signatories, representing public health and safety, bicyclists, pedestrians, consumers, disability communities, law enforcement, environmentalists, first responders, smart-growth advocates and crash victims’ families.

In other words: as we’ve said repeatedly, this stuff isn’t ready yet, and don’t think it is.

Two recommendations from the letter that stood out to me are pretty solid, in my opinion: increase the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s budget to adequately oversee autonomous cars (good!), and also include semi-autonomous systems (also good!), like Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors’ Super Cruise. NHTSA just opened an investigation into Autopilot over a recent crash in California. We should let regulators have some insight into any kind of system that cedes control of the wheel to car itself.

What’s this mean? The AV legislation isn’t a given, and it faces a pretty steep uphill climb from here.

MoBikeFed comment: The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation was one of the 27 signatories of this letter, which has set off a vigorous public debate about the safety of autonomous vehicles for people who walk and bicycle.

Jalopnik's characterization of the letter above is, uh, a bit breezy and informal? But the basic points they make are good: We need more oversight, safety backups, and proof of basic capability before this new system is allowed on our public streets. Please take a moment to read the full letter:

http://mobikefed.org/2018/03/self-driving-car-systems-must-ensure-safety...

We are devoted to ensuring the safety of these new vehicles for people who walk and bicycle before they are rolled out onto our public streets.

This technology has great promise for providing greater safety for all road users.

But that promise has not yet been realized. We should not allow vehicles on the road that are a danger to current transportation system users.

Please take a moment to contact Congress and ask for stronger safety oversight of these new and unproven systems:

http://mobikefed.org/2018/03/alert-join-mobikefed-league-asking-congress...

More information at http://mobikefed.org/2018/03/self-driving-car-systems-must-ensure-safety...

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