‘Move fast and break things’ won’t work for autonomous vehicles

Recently-proposed legislation to authorize a “Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence” intended to review the safety of automated technologies is a good idea. But other proposals would grant the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to initially exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind. This would escalate to 80,000 per-manufacturer within three years. This is a bad idea.

Suppose that each of the 80,000 autonomous vehicles deployed by a given manufacturer for testing carries an average of 1.5 passengers. This means that 120,000 people are experimenting with this new technology on public roads, not counting the pedestrians, cyclists and others who unwittingly share those roads in this experiment…

So, let us fund a center tasked to develop the appropriate safety and security standards for autonomous vehicles. But let’s not put those vehicles on the road until they can meet those standards.