Despite a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S operating with the vehicle’s semi-autonomous “Autopilot” software engaged, the federal government will not slow down the development of self-driving cars.
Speaking at the Automated Vehicle Symposium in San Francisco, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA) Mark Rosekind said that “no one incident will derail the Department of Transportation and NHTSA from its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new lifesaving technologies.”
Rosekind was resolute that autonomous vehicles are a key element of improving safety on American roads, according to a Detroit News report.
“We lost 35,200 lives on our roads last year. We are in a bad place. This is a bad situation, and we should be desperate for new tools that will help us save lives,” he said.
“If we wait for perfect, we’ll be waiting for a very, very long time. How many lives might we be losing while we wait? Ones that could otherwise be saved by a thoughtful but determined approach to bring lifesaving technologies to the road.”
As for the NHTSA investigation into the fatal accident, Rosekind said he could not comment “on any ongoing investigations” of crashes that have involved Tesla’s autopilot feature.
“It would be inappropriate to prejudge the outcome until all the facts are analyzed,” he said.
While Rosekind expressed NHTSA’s support of driverless cars, he pointed out that regulators are neutral about future technology developments.
“The federal government is not here to pick the winners and losers of this technology,” he said. “We are neutral on the question of incremental technological development versus skipping to full automation.”
Rosekind’s speech was made as regulators are now writing guidelines to advise others on the safe deployment of automated vehicles.
It was also delivered as other governments this week seemingly reacted to the Tesla fatal accident.
First, Germany proposed that black boxes be installed in autonomous cars, followed by China’s suspension of testing of the cars on public roads until the government puts new laws into place.