WASHINGTON — Between the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) meeting Nov. 19 and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation's meeting Nov. 20, two themes emerged on the industry's challenges regarding AVs: A lack of federal testing standards and confusing technology nomenclature.
At its meeting, the NTSB detailed its findings on the probable cause of the 2018 crash of an Uber autonomous vehicle in Tempe, Ariz., that killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg. The board also issued recommendations for AV testing standards.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the crash was the failure of the safety driver, who was distracted by a cell phone, to "closely monitor the road and the operation of the automated driving system." The board says inadequate risk assessment procedures, ineffective oversight of vehicle drivers, and "a lack of adequate mechanisms for addressing operators' automation complacency" also contributed.
Wednesday's Senate committee meeting considered a few more topics regarding deployment of highly automated vehicles, including cybersecurity, infrastructure and changing the regulatory framework that currently allows AV developers' voluntary self-assessment of technologies.
This week's developments have industry experts reiterating the need for federal safety standards for automated technology.
"The federal government is actively encouraging a corporate laboratory experiment where real people are unknowingly being used as crash dummies," Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in a statement. "The federal government has done nothing to provide AV safety oversight in the 18 months since Elaine Herzberg's death from a self-driving test car was caused by Uber's inadequate safety culture. If not now, when?"
Robert L. Redding, a Washington representative for the Automotive Service Association testified at the hearings, and encouraged Congress to take action now in order to drive the future of autonomous vehicles
“This is an opportunity to get it right and require that these vehicles be inspected by state-approved programs each year,” Mr. Redding said. “In addition, failure to address vehicle data access for independent repairers in what might possibly be the only related legislation to be considered in the 116th Congress should concern consumers and automotive repairers."