WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s pick to run the nation’s highway protection agency pledged Thursday to assault a disaster of fatal car or truck crashes by applying protection policies to prevent impaired driving whilst scrutinizing quick-emerging automatic technologies, these types of as in Tesla motor vehicles, that could set people at risk.
Steven Cliff, a former California air pollution regulator, mentioned he was “gravely concerned” about an unprecedented rise in deaths due to reckless driving in the coronavirus pandemic.
He mentioned if confirmed as head of the Nationwide Freeway Targeted traffic Basic safety Administration, he would function to right away undertake regulations these types of as these urging seatbelt use, and would put into action mandates underneath the new infrastructure law for technologies to decrease drunken driving.
“I am fully commited to turning this about,” Cliff explained to the Senate Commerce Committee, referring to the crash craze.
He mentioned the infrastructure law will enable by increasing NHTSA’s finances by fifty%, with funds used to improve staffing and enhance U.S. details collection to comprehend where by and how crashes take place.
An approximated 38,680 people were being killed in traffic crashes in 2020, the most due to the fact 2007, even while total miles driven dropped at the commencing of the pandemic. In the 1st three months of 2021, eight,730 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, a 10.5% raise from the similar time period past year.
The Connected Push documented in October that the agency is battling with a increasing backlog of protection policies ordered by Congress that are yrs overdue and could save thousands of lives. An AP critique of rule-earning by NHTSA underneath the past three presidents discovered at minimum thirteen automobile protection policies earlier due, including a rear seatbelt reminder necessity handed by Congress in 2012 that was to be applied by 2015.
At the moment the agency’s deputy administrator, Cliff is envisioned to get wide help from the committee but faces delays in last affirmation, along with a quantity of other Transportation Section nominees. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., has mentioned he will keep all Transportation and Commerce nominees right up until he receives more details from the Biden administration on initiatives to resolve delays in the U.S. source chain. A “hold” helps prevent a motion from going to the Senate flooring and normally have to be get over with sixty votes, a time-consuming procedure.
Below Cliff, NHTSA has carried out a rewrite of vehicle fuel financial system requirements to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The agency also pressured electrical vehicle gross sales chief Tesla to recall automobiles to resolve touchscreens that go blank, and opened an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot partially automatic driver-assist system due to crashes into parked crisis motor vehicles.
Cliff on Thursday proposed the Tesla probe could consider months and declined to say what enforcement actions may well be taken. But in a most likely warning shot to its CEO, Elon Musk, Cliff pressured that the agency will not let protection to be lost in the identify of innovation. In latest months, the chair of the Nationwide Transportation Basic safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, has been significant of Tesla, saying its description of “Full Self-Driving” for its latest driver-assist system was misleading and urging NHTSA to consider action.
NHTSA is searching into a grievance that Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software package nearly induced a crash. The company is letting homeowners to check the software package on general public roads. And NHTSA is investigating why Teslas working with the company’s Autopilot system have crashed into parked crisis motor vehicles even while their warning lights are flashing.
“I want to make apparent that no vehicle that is available for invest in now is capable of driving itself. There is almost nothing that can change a totally attentive driver in motor vehicles now,” Cliff mentioned, talking of the agency’s stance towards enforcement. While automatic driving technological know-how in the potential retains a lot promise for minimizing car or truck crashes, he mentioned, “we cannot forgo protection in the interim.”
A information was remaining Thursday trying to find remark from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations office. Tesla has mentioned in the earlier that neither “Full Self-Driving” nor Autopilot are totally autonomous and that motorists have to be completely ready to intervene at all times. Musk mentioned in January that he envisioned the “Full Self-Driving” system to drive more reliably than humans this year.
NHTSA, which sets vehicle protection requirements, finds protection defects, manages recalls and helps to acquire governing administration fuel financial system needs, has been without having a confirmed administrator due to the fact Mark Rosekind remaining at the stop of 2016. Car protection advocates have been contacting on Biden to make a nomination so a confirmed administrator can start out going on a protection agenda.