A Move to Ease the Path for Driverless Vehicles Draws Fire from Safety Groups

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the proposed rule change, published last month, is designed “to improve safety and update rules that no longer make sense such as requiring manual driving controls on autonomous vehicles.’’ But road safety advocates contend that before clearing a path for driverless vehicles, NHTSA should first set performance standards to prove they are at least as safe as human drivers.

“At a time when experts including the National Transportation Safety Board and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are continuing to identify serious safety shortcomings with driverless car systems, it is stunning the the U.S. Department of Transportation is focused on aggressively furthering its hands-off approach to hands-free driving,’’ said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington-DC based group, in a prepared statement.

“We’re concerned that they’re dismantling safety regulations,” Cathy Chase, president of the group, said in an interview with FairWarning.