Few automakers reported on self-driving car safety to White House

September 10, 2018

Despite requests from the White House to voluntarily outline a strategy and provide data on self-driving car efforts on public roads, few automakers and tech companies have complied.

As The Detroit News reported Monday, only General Motors, Ford, and Google-owned Waymo have submitted reports. The dozens of other companies testing autonomous car tech declined to do so, taking the word “voluntary” very literally.

MORE: Humans to blame for most self-driving car crashes in California, study shows

President Donald Trump’s administration has argued that voluntarily submitting reports benefits consumer interests by ensuring transparency and reassuring the public that automakers are undergoing vigorous testing to ensure high safety standards. There is currently no legal mechanism in place to force companies to submit safety reports before or during testing of autonomous vehicles on the road.

Critics suggest that what has been submitted already by GM, Ford, and Waymo doesn’t go far enough in terms of transparency.

John Simpson, a director at the Consumer Watchdog group said this about the glossy, 40-plus page reports already submitted: “The three we have seen are much more like slick marketing brochures than any that shows what kinds of tests have been passed or what these things can do.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation crafted a set of guidelines for all companies testing self-driving vehicles during the administration of President Barack Obama, but the Trump Administration has since co-opted and adapted these proposed guidelines, and plans to release another version this year. Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Gary Peters from Michigan, are considering a bill that would allow for 80,000 self-driving cars to be sold in the U.S. per year, while a House bill allowing 100,000 cars has already passed. Both bills would require automakers to submit safety evaluations of their vehicles within a certain time period, as few as 90 days and up to two years.

These measures are among the few that have bipartisan support in Congress, and seem to be in line with public interest as well. As the News reported, a recent survey by ORC International showed that 69 percent of U.S. residents showed concern over sharing the road with driverless vehicles.

Volkswagen, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, and more continue to hold out on reporting this information until absolutely necessary, or at least until development moves further along. As German giant Volkswagen Group said in a statement, the company will “submit a voluntary safety self-assessment letter to NHTSA when the time is appropriate in conjunction with U.S. testing and deployment.”

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