A top auto safety official at the NHTSA has claimed that it’s too early to regulate self-driving vehicles, such as the ones being tested by Uber, Waymo, and more.
According to Automotive News, NHTSA deputy administrator Heidi King said in an interview on Thursday: “At this point the technology is so nascent I don’t think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology.” She went on to suggest that the NHTSA is waiting for the right time to step in and institute regulations.
This statement comes after months of debate over the safety of autonomous vehicles in their current state of development in the wake of a fatal Tempe, Arizona, crash that left one pedestrian dead. The public outcry and push back contributed to Uber’s decision to shutter its self-driving taxi efforts in Pittsburgh just this week.
Though King is intent on leaving regulations out of the picture, she did say that the NHTSA plans to use its defect investigation and recall powers to keep self-driving cars in check. She emphasizes focusing on issues that still plague U.S. motorists more closely instead like drunk driving and improper seat belt use, as there were 37,461 traffic deaths in 2016, a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year.
As more and more companies leap into the autonomous vehicle experimentation stage, they are becoming an increased presence on U.S. roads in major population areas. Time will tell when the “right time” to step in and impose regulations will be, but it may not be so easy to spot.