WASHINGTON – The new head of the government’s road safety agency says it will intensify efforts to understand the risks posed by automated vehicle technology so it can decide what regulations may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
In an interview Wednesday, Steven Cliff, who was confirmed last month as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the agency is assessing crash data recently reported by automakers and tech companies.
Any new regulations NHTSA may impose would fill what critics say is an urgent need to address the growing use of driver assisted systems on U.S. roads. The systems have been linked to crashes involving deaths and serious injuries, though they also have enormous potential to prevent crashes. There are no federal regulations that directly cover either self-driving vehicles or those with partially automated driver-assist systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot.
Before developing any new federal standards, Cliff said, NHTSA wants to to better understand how driver-assist and autonomous technology should perform.
Cliff spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press in his first on-the-record interview since being confirmed by the Senate.
He said that when he first joined the agency in February 2021, he was surprised to discover that NHTSA had no data on automated vehicle crashes. As a result, Cliff said, he challenged the agency to require such reporting. Last month, NHTSA released data from July 2021 to May, concluding that automated vehicles were involved in nearly 400 crashes.