As road testing continues with self-driving cars the time when they will take their place on the highway continues to grow closer. But even as the pace of road evaluations continues to speed up, regulators are still of the opinion that it’s too soon to start placing rules upon them. Recently, safety advocates have criticized regulators for being too lax in their hands-off approach to rules for autonomous vehicles.
According to the government’s top auto safety official it’s premature to regulate the self-driving vehicles being tested by companies such as General Motors Co. and Waymo LLC.
During an interview, Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration commented that “at this point the technology is so nascent I don’t think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology,” and that “it’s not there yet, but each and every day we are open to identifying when the time is right.”
Fresh calls for oversight have been fueled by recent events such as Uber Technologies Inc. self-driving SUV that struck and killed a pedestrian in March. Senate Democrats have slowed legislation in the chamber that would ease the path for companies to put more self-driving vehicles on the road.
All these calls for more regulations have apparently not phased the NHTSA as they are more focused on removing barriers to autonomous vehicles posed by existing rules. According to King, the NHTSA is more concerned with what are called the “old enemies” of road safety, things such as drunk driving, and not wearing a seat belt, which are involved in thousands of traffic deaths in the U.S. each year are of greater concern now.
The NHTSA estimates there were 37,461 traffic deaths on U.S. roads in 2016 and that was up 5.6 percent from 2015. King believes that in the grand scheme of things impaired drivers and flawed human choices are still big problems that need solving.