Automated & Connected

Too fast to regulate—are there alternatives for automated and connected vehicles?

An article by Joann Muller in online news provider Axios indicates that automated vehicle technology may be moving too fast for government regulation.

Mark Rosekind, Chief Safety Innovation Officer at Zoox, a robotics and autonomous mobility company, says that “everything is moving so quickly, by the time you regulate it, it would be totally obsolete.”

That may be — and Congress has yet to pass a version of the AV START bill —so a key question emerges: What standards alternatives are there for AV developers to help balance innovation, performance and safety?

Rosekind, who led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2014 to 2016, says that what’s needed is for companies to share what they’ve learned from their mistakes, according to the article. “What we need is a path from innovation to data-driven best practices and that will set the path for regulations in the future.”

Muller points out that the airline industry provides a good model for this approach. It has a database of lessons learned to support sharing of information. Also, airlines, unlike automakers, don’t compete over safety features. These, and other factors, may contribute to the avoidance of a fatal passenger airline crash in the U.S. since 2009.

Comparatively, she continues, the auto industry has a poor showing when it comes to sharing information and learning from it. For example, although the industry tracked traffic fatalities through the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) since 1975, it was unsuccessful in avoiding major problems such as the Ford-Firestone tire failure.

Without a federal bill, AV developers are left to navigate a patchwork of state regulations. Rosekind’s firm, Zoox, appears to be doing well in this regard. It is the first AV developer to obtain permission from California to test driverless vehicles with actual passengers aboard.

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