By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Author
WASHINGTON (AP) — The brand new head of the federal government’s street security company says it’ll intensify efforts to know the dangers posed by automated automobile know-how so it may resolve what rules could also be vital to guard drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
In an interview Wednesday, Steven Cliff, who was confirmed final month as head of the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration, mentioned the company is assessing crash knowledge not too long ago reported by automakers and tech firms.
Any new rules NHTSA could impose would fill what critics say is an pressing want to deal with the rising use of driver-assistance programs on U.S. roads. The programs have been linked to crashes involving deaths and severe accidents, although in addition they have huge potential to stop crashes. There are not any federal rules that immediately cowl both self-driving automobiles or these with partially automated driver-assist programs similar to Tesla’s Autopilot.
Earlier than creating any new federal requirements, Cliff mentioned, NHTSA desires to raised perceive how the brand new know-how ought to carry out.
Cliff spoke Wednesday to The Related Press in his first on-the-record interview since being confirmed by the Senate.
He mentioned that when he first joined the company in February 2021, he was stunned to find that NHTSA had no knowledge on automated automobile crashes. Consequently, Cliff mentioned, he challenged the company to require such reporting. Final month, NHTSA launched knowledge from July 2021 to Might, concluding that automated automobiles had been concerned in practically 400 crashes.
Cliff cautioned that whereas he believes federal requirements are wanted to manage driver assisted know-how, he desires to keep away from dashing to embrace new guidelines which may doubtlessly find yourself compromising security.
“Any time we put a regulation on the books, we’ve got to outline not solely what commonplace that know-how must be held to, however we have to have an goal technique to measure the efficiency of the system to make sure that it really complies with the regulation,” he mentioned from his workplace on the Division of Transportation’s headquarters in Washington.
The company, Cliff mentioned, can be engaged on efficiency requirements for computerized emergency braking, which it plans to require on all new passenger automobiles and heavy vans. The braking programs, which may detect and cease for pedestrians, different automobiles and obstacles, present nice potential to assist stem rising site visitors deaths within the U.S., he mentioned.
NHTSA, he mentioned, will set metrics for a way the braking programs detect objects to make sure that the programs reply appropriately.
“That’s a part of any of the requirements that we put in place,” he mentioned.
Cliff declined to debate any particulars of rules that is perhaps forthcoming.
“It’s vital for us to take the information that comes from these incidents, higher perceive it in an engineering context,” he mentioned. “I feel it’s vital to maneuver rapidly however not so quick that we’re getting it flawed.”
Of the practically 400 crashes that had been reported by producers, Teslas had been concerned in additional than all different automakers mixed. However Cliff famous that Tesla has driver-assist know-how working on practically all of its roughly 830,000 automobiles on U.S. roads, which makes neat comparisons to different automakers troublesome. The corporate additionally gives practically instantaneous wi-fi reporting of crashes, so it receives knowledge sooner than different automakers.
Since Cliff’s arrival, the company has stepped up enforcement efforts geared toward Tesla, together with a push for a dozen remembers for the reason that begin of 2021. The company is investigating why Teslas engaged on Autopilot appear to crash into emergency automobiles parked alongside freeways. And it has obtained greater than 750 shopper complaints involving Teslas braking unexpectedly for no obvious motive.
On the identical time, Cliff added, Tesla has been cooperative with NHTSA since his arrival on the company.
“I feel we work effectively with them,” he mentioned, “and when we’ve got recognized that there are dangers, they’ve taken motion, and that is applicable.”
Cliff, 52, whose background is in chemistry and air air pollution regulation with little auto security expertise, takes over the company at a vital time. NHTSA has estimated that just about 43,000 folks had been killed on U.S. roads final yr, the best such determine in 16 years.
Security advocates say NHTSA has develop into extra aggressive in regulating automakers since Cliff’s arrival from the California Air Sources Board, the state’s air pollution regulator. Cliff, who first joined the California board in 2008 as an air air pollution specialist, rose to develop into its deputy government officer. Years earlier, he obtained a bachelor’s diploma and doctorate in chemistry from the College of California, San Diego.
He concedes that he has needed to develop into a fast research on auto security. However he mentioned that assessing the science and the information is much like the work he did in California.
In December, Cliff instructed the Senate Commerce Committee that he would work to undertake rules similar to these urging seat belt use, and would implement mandates beneath the brand new federal infrastructure regulation to scale back drunken driving.
He mentioned he believes that computerized emergency braking in new automobiles ought to assist cut back fatalities and that the company will take a “secure programs method” to stem the deaths. These approaches may embrace roadway design and reductions in velocity limits.
As well as, he mentioned, NHTSA is attempting to know why Black Individuals die in crashes at a larger charge than different teams.
“In some instances,” Cliff mentioned, “numerous that has to do with infrastructure, but in addition the automobiles themselves. So bettering the brand new automobile fleet is a part of the answer, nevertheless it’s additionally vital that we educate drivers.”
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