Consumer Group Presses City For Autonomous Testing Rules

By Staff Writer April 15, 2019

Consumer Watchdog backed a proposed city ordinance that would ban self-driving robot cars from the streets of Chicago unless the federal government enacts enforceable safety standards for autonomous vehicles.

The public interest group added that testing autonomous vehicles would be appropriate if adequate safeguards were in place, including a trained human test driver behind a steering wheel and brake pedal.

In written testimony given to a joint hearing by the City Council's Committee on Finance and Committee on Transportation & Public Way, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson said:

"Consumer Watchdog agrees that so long as the federal government fails in its responsibility to protect all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians by setting appropriate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), the Chicago City Council should ban autonomous vehicles – robot cars – from being generally deployed on your streets."

Consumer Watchdog said that with appropriate safeguards and oversight, including full transparency about testing companies' activities, testing of autonomous vehicles in Chicago could be allowed.

[caption id="attachment_271" align="alignnone" width="624"]self driving car Relaxing in a self driving car.[/caption]

"If self-driving car companies want to use Chicago's public streets as their private laboratories, then they have a responsibility to be completely transparent about what they are doing and to test according to rules that City Council sets," Simpson said.

Consumer Watchdog said Chicago's testing regulations should include these provisions:

  • A self-driving vehicle being tested must have a permit from the city.
  • The robot car being tested must have a trained test driver, behind a steering wheel and brake pedal capable of assuming control should that become necessary.
  • The testing company should be required to file public reports about any crashes.
  • The testing company should file public "disengagement reports" explaining instances when the robot technology failed and the test driver had to take control.

These provisions are similar to what's required under California's current testing regulations, Consumer Watchdog said. The regulations have not proved burdensome, nor hampered innovation; 37 companies have obtained permits from the Department of Motor Vehicles to test their robot vehicles in the state.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 11 June 2019 23:31