OMBUDSMAN ALERT: How would you like to share the nations highways with hundreds of thousands of self-driving vehicles exempted from federal motor vehicle safety standards?


The question in this article’s title was posed in an emergency coast-to-coast conference call held on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 by a coalition of leading safety and consumer advocates and families of victims of deadly vehicle defects which called on the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to include much needed changes to a bill on autonomous vehicles (AVs).

OMBUDSMAN ALERT was invited to participate in this national conference call as a result of its two previous critical articles on self-driving cars and trucks published by this paper on November 10, 2016 and March 16, 2017, respectively.

Additionally, OMBUDSMAN ALERT was recognized by the conference for its role in encouraging the sponsorship (through Congresswoman Nita Lowey) of HR3449. The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act was designed to prevent used car dealers from selling vehicles subject to a dangerous safety recall prior to the dealer’s correction of the recall problem.

The individuals and organizations that participated along with the Ombudsman in this national conference call included two US senators, Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Ed Markey (MA); Joan Claybrook, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; Jack Gillis, Director of Public Affairs, Consumer Federation of America; Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League; and Jason Lebine, Director, Center for Auto Safety (established by Ralph Nader).

The reason for the emergency nature of this conference was that on the very next day, Wednesday, October 4, the “American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act,” S.1885, was to be taken up by the Senate Commerce Committee at a legislative markup session.

The existing problems with this bill, as outlined by the participants on our conference call, included the lack of proper testing prior to the unleashing of many thousands of self-driving vehicles on the nation’s roads and highways, the exemption from federal motor vehicle safety standards for these autonomous vehicles and the equally frightening exemption from liability for accidents caused by self-driving vehicles. State automotive safety laws would not be allowed to prevail over the provisions of this proposed bill! Many of the participants in this conference call, including the Ombudsman, expressed the opinion that the American motorist driving his own car alongside of these self-driven cars will be part of an “experiment” to test the viability and safety of human -driven cars mixed in with autonomous cars. Most participants expressed the need for a much slower and more “staged” approach to allowing “human-driven” cars to interact with “robot-driven” cars as contemplated in this proposed bill.

OMBUDSMAN ALERT intends to closely monitor the developments with this highly critical proposed US Senate bill and keep our readers informed on its status after the multitude of consumer groups throughout the US have had a chance to (hopefully) significantly modify its provisions.

Please address all questions and comments to [email protected].

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