As US regulators consider issuing guidance allowing the sale of self-driving cars, an industry group representing automakers has urged the government to take things slow.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in January that within six months it intended to “develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles.” The agency is working with officials in states and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to develop a “model state policy” that would eventually lead to a consistent policy for the whole country.
With that effort in progress, the NHTSA held a public hearing Friday to get different viewpoints. Paul Scullion, safety manager at the Association of Global Automakers, warned that issuing guidance instead of writing regulations could allow dangerous cars on the road. “While this process is often time-consuming, these procedural safeguards are in place for valid reasons,” Scullion said, according to the Associated Press.
Scullion also said that NHTSA “should not bind itself to arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines at the expense of robust and thoughtful policy analysis,” according to Reuters. The Association of Global Automakers represents Aston Martin, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Maserati, McLaren, Nissan, Subaru, and Suzuki, and Toyota.
Other meeting attendees reportedly argued that today’s self-driving cars can be foiled by bad weather, poor lane markings, and an inability to take directions from police officers.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind argued that the agency can’t wait any longer before issuing guidance because self-driving technology is already hitting the road. Tesla’s autopilot feature provides steering assistance to help drivers avoid accidents, for example. Issuing regulations can take years.
Without government advice, “people are just going to keep putting stuff out on the road with no guidance on how do we do this the right way,” Rosekind said, according to the AP.
Google, which has been developing self-driving cars for a few years, is looking for a faster timeline than traditional automakers. Google “is pushing Congress to give the NHTSA new powers to grant it special, expedited permission to sell cars without steering wheels or pedals,” the AP noted.