The National Association of City Transportation Officials has written a letter to automotive regulators voicing its opposition to requests by Ford and GM temporary exemptions from federal safety standards governing self-driving cars. If granted, the exemptions would allow the manufacturers “to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles without human controls or functions on US roads,” according to a report by Automotive News.
As an analysis by Streetsblog explains, the exemption would allow the companies to operate 2,500 automated vehicles each year “without steering wheels, brake pedals and mirrors.” They would not be sold to consumers, but used for delivery and ride sharing. In its letter opposing the manufacturers’ requests, NACTO said the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration should require the companies to show evidence that the vehicles in question are “at least equal to the overall safety level of a compliant vehicle driven by a reasonably prudent, licensed driver,” according to Streetsblog. NACTO’s Executive Director argued further that the manufacturers should not only show evidence “that the controls, telltales, and devices aren’t needed for vehicles controlled by an ADS, but also prove that the ADS can successfully respond in a manner at least as safe as a nonexempt vehicle with a human driver would.”
Streetsblog notes additionally that despite sustained efforts by car manufacturers to increase the number of automated vehicles in use, and despite data showing that automated vehicles pose safety threats to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, federal regulators “didn’t even require automakers to report when their tech featured in a crash” until June of last year. A report released in June of this year, meanwhile, “found that automakers reported 392 crashes —six fatal, five with serious injuries—in 11 months among motorists who used ‘advanced driver assistance systems’ within 30 seconds of an impact.”
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