Head to Head
Conversations on Politics, Policy in the Golden State
By Mitch Bainwol
Automated Driving Technologies Promise Significant Safety and Social Benefits
Automakers continue making enormous progress reducing the severity of crashes, saving lives on America’s roadways by both improving crash worthiness and incorporating life-saving equipment into today’s vehicles. While vehicle defects accounted for less than one percent of the overall fatality rate in 2015, federal statistics indicate that 94 percent of all crashes result from driver error.
That is why advanced safety technology that assists drivers – such as connected and autonomous vehicles – is so promising as we look to the future. The next big advance will come from avoiding crashes altogether through the continued development and deployment of automated technologies. Getting these innovations into the car fleet and on our roads is critical to long-term safety gains.
At the same time, safety is a shared responsibility, and our industry’s ability to advance this technology depends on a public policy balance that recognizes and supports innovation.
Alliance member automakers take very seriously the need to ensure that both semi-automated and fully automated technologies are deployed only after being fully developed and tested. It is also vital that drivers are fully aware of their own role in the vehicle’s safe operation.
In addition to improved safety, automated technologies promise other great societal benefits like:
- Reduced traffic congestion;
- Lower emissions from less idling and more efficient routes;
- Diminished energy use, saving dollars at the pump;
- Increased free and family time from more productive commutes and travel;
- A more seamless transportation system and mobility network;
- More flexible land use freeing up public space and reducing parking needs; and
- Less stress and healthier lives.
Finally, and significantly, these advanced technologies offer newfound freedom to people with disabilities and increased mobility for the elderly who no longer drive.
Automakers invest over $100 billion annually in technology research, development and testing. It is important that California regulations support our progress to realize these social benefits.
By Rosemary Shahan
California’s DMV is close to finalizing rules to allow auto manufacturers and tech companies to sell semi-autonomous and fully autonomous cars to consumers.
Reportedly, auto manufacturers, Google, Uber, and other tech companies foresee hundreds of billions of dollars a year in profits. Not just in selling a new generation of vehicles, but also in tracking you, compiling your personal data, and targeting you for marketing as you ride along. Plus the vast cost-savings from eliminating millions of jobs held by drivers and truckers.
In DMV-hosted forums, corporations argue they should be allowed to “self-certify” their autonomous vehicles to comply with all applicable safety standards. They rail against having a “patchwork of state regulations” and play states against each other over which one can be more lax.
Never mind this inconvenient truth: There are no federal safety standards specific to autonomous vehicles. For example, there is no federal standard that requires them to be secure against being controlled remotely by someone who may not have your best interests at heart. Some national defense experts have raised alarms about the potential for driverless cars to be weaponized by terrorists and used to crash into crowds or deliver bombs.
If Putin’s henchmen can hack into multiple servers at will, and the North Koreans can hack into Sony and spill corporate secrets, why would we allow someone intent on mischief to operate our cars? Oh, because if we have to wait for a rule to be promulgated and the cars to be designed and built so they are secure from cyber-attacks, that would take time, and meanwhile, the clock is ticking on when the players who are investing billions in autonomous vehicles can cash in.
The notion of trusting auto manufacturers like GM, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Volkswagen, and Honda, who were caught and penalized repeatedly over their hiding safety defects while they polluted our air or their hapless customers were killed and injured – sometimes lying to regulators for over a decade and engaging in massive fraud – would be laughable, if there were not so much at risk.
The manufacturers also oppose waiting until the vehicles are actually safe to operate in weather conditions common in our state, depending on your location and the season – like heavy rain, fog, and snow. Their solution? The cars should pull over and stop. As if that could always be done safely on, say, Highway 1 or the Bay Bridge.
Bottom line: autonomous cars have a lot of promise but California should tap on the brakes.Rosemary Shahan is President of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.