By Richard Truett, Crain News Service
DETROIT (Nov. 30, 2015) — Self-driving cars are a bad move, according to longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader.
Today, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book, Unsafe at Any Speed, Mr. Nader said the auto industry should put the brakes on automated driving.
“It's leading to the emerging great hazard on the highway, which is distracted driving,” Mr. Nader said. The auto industry wants “to turn cars into entertainment arenas, mobile offices. Distracted driving is already generating thousands of deaths per year. They are ballyhooing the driverless cars when the algorithms are nowhere near as specific as serendipitous situations on the road in congested traffic.”
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 10 percent of 2014's traffic fatalities were caused by distracted driving.
Mr. Nader, speaking with Automotive News from his office in Washington, D.C., said he's not against much of the technology in today's vehicles — just the way some of it is being used.
“There are definite benefits of collision-avoidance systems,” Mr. Nader said. “But the problem is once the auto companies get on to something, they don't know when to stop. And so they are turning the automobile into an ever more complicated computer on wheels. Which means that the driver is losing control to the software, and the more the driver loses control to the software, the less the driver is going to be able to control the car down the road.”