Consumer group: Self-driving car policy not enough

WASHINGTON — A leading consumer group isn’t happy with a new federal policy released Tuesday for the development of automated vehicles.

“Consumers need more than just guidelines,” said Will Wallace, a policy analyst with the nonprofit Consumers Union. “We need specific requirements for automakers when they develop, design, test and deploy these cars.”

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Federal transportation officials have said they want the guidelines to be flexible to keep pace with innovation.

“We want to be as nimble and flexible as we can be, recognizing that we will never, ever compromise on what we think is safe,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a Tuesday news conference. The U.S. Department of Transportation intends to update the policy on self-driving cars yearly.

But Wallace said he believes it is in the best interest of both consumers and automakers to have mandatory minimum standards for the new technology.

“These cars won’t be widely accepted until consumers can trust that they’re safe,” Wallace said.

Wallace acknowledges the government might need to establish new legal authority to regulate self-driving cars. The guidelines do state, however, that the government will force recalls of self-driving vehicles if software doesn’t perform as it should.

Industry reaction to the federal guidelines was largely favorable.

Former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration David Strickland, who now represents a coalition involving Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber and Volvo Cars, said the guidelines provide a foundation for testing and deploying autonomous cars. If a manufacturer doesn’t follow the guidelines “it will be open and apparent,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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