Firm Logo

Federal Regulators Dropping the Ball on Autonomous Vehicle Safety

By: Anapol Weiss

Autonomous vehicles may be the most significant technological development we’ll see in our lifetime, but recently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued guidelines that fail to provide thoughtful, thorough regulatory guidance. In doing so NHTSA ignored its Congressional mandate and passed the buck to the states.

Rather than provide us with one set of consistent, national regulations that prioritize transparency, safety, and accountability, NHTSA is pushing us into a patchwork of state-by-state rules that will create confusion when clarity is badly needed.

This exciting technology has the power to improve highway safety, but not if the automobile industry is left to its own devices. From faulty airbags to dangerous ignition switches, hidden devices to conceal exhaust levels, and malfunctioning gas pedals, auto manufacturers have a well-documented record of carelessness and negligence.

Now, because of NHTSA’s failure, auto makers will be able to duck responsibility if their autonomous vehicles malfunction and cause injury or death. Consumers will be in a horror scene from a sci-fi movie every time an autonomous vehicle is on the road.

We believe that NHTSA is making a grave mistake by failing to uphold its federal obligation to ensure transparency, safety, and accountability at this critical moment and we urge them to reconsider their reckless approach immediately.

Larry Coben earned his law degree, cum laude, from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1973. He has represented clients in nearly every state in the U.S. against multi-national corporations marketing defective and unsafe products.

In addition to hundreds of articles in various publications, Larry has authored three books:

  • Crashworthiness Litigation, 2d, American Association of Justice, 2008.
  • Products Liability Litigation: Product Studies—Chapters on Crashworthiness, Frontal, Restraint Systems, Seat Belts. Clark, Boardman and Callaghan, 1996.
  • Pennsylvania Products Liability Guide, Bisel Publishing Co., 1993.