Home Tesla fatality can’t dissuade NHTSA from self-driving upside

Tesla fatality can’t dissuade NHTSA from self-driving upside

Despite a fatal crash setback for the self-driving car industry, the leading U.S. car safety regulator said it is standing behind autonomous vehicles.

Automotive News reported on a conference with Mark Rosekind, chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During the conference Rosekind indicated that the U.S. government would not pull back its support for research and development into self-driving cars.

Rosekind’s comments come after it was revealed that a Tesla S-model car was involved in a fatal crash this may. At the time of the Florida accident, the car was using autopilot software which is designed to take over driving of the car so that the driver can take their hands off the steering wheel for periods of time.

NHTSA opened a formal investigation into the crash of the Model S, though the government chose to say little on the ongoing Tesla probe.

“No one incident will derail the Department of Transportation and NHTSA from its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new lifesaving technologies,” said Rosekind.

NHTSA wants to know what accidents have been avoided

He continued by saying that his agency still sees a strong future for self-driving car technology, which has the potential to reduce 94% of vehicle accidents caused by human error.

The NHTSA previously said it was releasing safety guidelines for self-driving cars by July 14. However, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx changed the timeline by saying that these won’t be released until “late summer.” The guidelines being developed by NHTSA were to stipulate conditions for the deployment of autonomous vehicles and how they are to behave under various conditions.

Rosekind said that the agency would ensure that autonomous autos would be “much safer” than human pilots before they are allowed to tear around U.S. highways. However, he chose not to quantify how much safer they must be before the threshold is crossed and self-driving cars get the green light.

“If we wait for perfect, we’ll be waiting for a very, very long time,” said Rosekind. “How many lives might we be losing while we wait?”

The comments by government officials come amid concerns that the fragmentation of the U.S. regulatory environment for self-driving car testing and deployment is putting America at a disadvantage compared to nimbler governments around the globe.

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