According to a U.S. government’s top auto safety official, regulating self-driving cars today, such as the ones tested by GM and Waymo, would be entirely premature.
“At this point the technology is so nascent I don’t think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology,” said Heidi King, deputy administrator of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). “It’s not there yet, but each and every day we are open to identifying when the time is right.”
King also said that the NHTSA is focused on removing barriers to self-driving vehicles posed by current rules, as reported by Automotive News.
Yet, Senate Democrats have slowed legislation that would have eased the path for companies to put more autonomous cars on the road ever since an Uber self-driving prototype struck and killed a pedestrian back in March.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA is also looking to use tools such as defect investigation, recalls and other enforcement powers in order to curb any dangers that might emerge from autonomous cars, King noted. She also mentioned how things such as drunk driving and not wearing a seat belt are currently of greater concern.
“In the grand scheme of things in saving lives, impaired drivers and flawed human choices are still the big problems we need to solve as a nation,” added the exec.
The agency estimates that there were 37,461 traffic deaths on U.S. roads in 2016 alone, an increase of 5.6% compared to the previous year.