Washington, D.C.—Responding to Friday night’s serious incident involving an autonomous vehicle, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and its Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety reiterated the importance of industry establishing and abiding by safety benchmarks, as part of an effort to advance the industry as a whole and contribute to faster and safer deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Based on extensive research and analysis, the Commission argues that AVs should only be deployed on public roads once developers reasonably believe that the vehicle is as safe as the average human driver. The presence of a trained backup driver or other safety mechanisms can assist towards reaching this metric.
“In these early days of the industry, establishing public trust is imperative,” said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). “While we urge swift deployment of AVs, crashes don’t happen in a vacuum—they actively shape how consumers and regulators view this technology, which will have transformative benefits for our society and mobility system. Thus, we must strive during these early days not to jeopardize the public’s confidence, but put robust systems in place that will improve confidence as we move forward.”
“There’s a lot at stake, from both public acceptance and regulatory policy, as we put these vehicles on public roads for the first time,” said Cuneyt Oge, former President of SAE International and member of the Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety. “The technology is advancing rapidly—the Commission’s work strives to help the entire industry move forward in the safest way possible, in order to deliver on the promise of reducing the 35,000 lives lost each year on our roads, adding to our energy security and reducing carbon pollution.”
The average human driver has a car accident approximately every 200,000 miles, suffers a major car accident which results in injury approximately every 1 million miles, and is involved in a fatal crash every 100 million miles.
In addition to recommending that vehicles are deployed only when as safe as the average human driver, the Commission encourages autonomous vehicle developers to formally collaborate through a technical data consortium to accelerate learning and safety through shared, anonymized information. The Commission also recommends that companies engage in public disclosure of achieved safety milestones and accompanying validation, and deploy redundant layers of technology to increase safety beyond any minimum required standard.
Although there will be incidents while autonomous technology is perfected, the current 40,000 lives lost and over 2 million people injured every year on American roads reveal the scope of the current problem. Experts believe up to 90 percent of crashes will be eliminated by autonomous technology, but recent polling has shown that the general public remains skeptical of these benefits, with only 35 percent of Americans aware that autonomous vehicles will save lives—reinforcing the need for implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
In addition to the safety benefits, autonomous vehicles are expected to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, which currently powers 92 percent of our transportation system, and is supplied and controlled by countries that do not share U.S. strategic interests. SAFE’s most recent analysis shows that approximately 80 percent of autonomous vehicle models employ an alternative powertrain, providing further evidence of a natural link between AVs and fuel choice.
About Securing America’s Future Energy
Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America’s dependence on oil. Near-total dependence on petroleum in the transportation sector undermines the nation’s economic and national security, and constrains U.S. foreign policy. To combat these threats, SAFE advocates for expanded domestic production of U.S. oil and gas resources, continued improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, and transportation sector innovations including electric vehicles, natural gas trucks, and autonomous vehicles. In 2006, SAFE joined with General P.X. Kelley (Ret.), 28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, to form the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and former military leaders committed to reducing the United States’ dependence on oil. Today, the ESLC is co-chaired by Frederick W. Smith and General James T. Conway (Ret), 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
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