NHTSA: Self-Driving Cars Need To Be Twice As Safe In Order To Reduce Traffic Deaths

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Proponents of self-driving vehicles claim the new technology will decrease the number of crashes occurring on the roadways, thereby reducing the number of driver and pedestrian deaths. But for that to happen, regulators say the new industry must take significant steps to improve autonomous vehicle safety. 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Mark Rosekind announced at a conference on Wednesday that in order for automakers to reduce the 38,000 deaths on roadways each year they would need to increase safety of their autonomous vehicles, Bloomberg reports.

“I’d actually like to throw the gauntlet down,” Rosekind said. “We need to start with two times better. We need to set a higher bar if we expect safety to actually be a benefit here.”

While NHTSA, which is expected to release a framework for regulations for self-driving vehicles next month, believes that automated driving will eventually become a lifesaver, it’s not there yet. However, Rosekind didn’t offer any specifics on how the agency could improve safety.

“It’s a 747 crashing every week for a year, that’s what the losses are on our highways,” he said of the 38,300 deaths in 2015 (up from 32,675 in 2014). “And that is unacceptable.”

Rosekind said that the upcoming rules aim to provide “new tools and authorities to really help advance if not accelerate getting these new technologies on the road safely.”

While he didn’t specify what the rule framework would include, he did say that the agency won’t bar states from crafting their own rules for regulating self-driving cars, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“What the states actually implement is their call,” he said “We will have no say in what that states want to do.”

U.S. Auto Regulator Says Self-Driving Cars Must Be Twice as Safe [Bloomberg]
NHTSA Won’t Block States from Setting Their Own Rules on Self-Driving Cars [The Wall Street Journal]