OMBUDSMAN ALERT: U.S. SENATE GREATLY IMPROVES DRIVERLESS VEHICLES BILL

Critical safety and consumer improvements resulted from the Oct. 3 national conference call of consumer advocates, which included Ombudsman Alert

BY LOUIS ALPERT

Ombudsman

Ombudsman Alert’s last article, published on Oct. 12, described the emergency national conference call by a coalition of leading safety and consumer advocates, which called on the US Senate Commerce Committee to include much needed changes to a bill on autonomous vehicles. Consumer Alert was privileged to actively participate in this critical conference call.

Some of the significant improvements now made by the US Senate Commerce Committee as suggested by the participants in the conference call included a reduction in the number of exemptions from existing motor vehicle safety standards for auto manufacturers; a requirement for the US Department of Transportation to review and evaluate the safety performance of vehicles with exemptions before allowing even larger numbers on the road; making the safety evaluation reports submitted by all Autonomous Vehicles (AV) manufacturers mandatory and available for public review; requiring a federal rule for consumer information on the capabilities and limitations of the AV at the point of sale for consumers; cyber security safeguards; and a requirement that cars have alert systems to prevent children from unintentionally being left behind and dying of heatstroke.

One of the leading consumer groups on our conference call, “Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,” through their vice president, Cathy Chase, stated: “Today’s action and the adoption of several pro-safety and consumer changes to S.1885 (Autonomous Vehicles Legislation) are a welcome development for advocates and other consumer and safety groups with whom we have worked to improve the legislation. Protecting public safety should be the top priority and not protecting industry investments in this new technology. We are pleased that the bill now moving to the full Senate will not only be known as the AV Start Act but it’s also an AV Safety Act.”

OMBUDSMAN ALERT concludes this article on an optimistic note shared by many of our consumer groups, with the following quote from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “Driverless cars have the potential to one day make meaningful and lasting reductions in the death and injury toll on our streets and highways. As we work toward that goal, it’s critical for Congress to ensure that these vehicles are deployed in a safe, sensible, and transparent manner. The amendments advanced today include some much-needed improvements. Nothing added to this bill will encumber the deployment of AVs, but will encourage the safe development and introduction of driverless cars.”

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