Consumer Watchdog Calls for National Moratorium on Driverless Car Testing

Mar 21, 2018

Consumer Watchdog has called for a national moratorium on driverless car testing on public highways after an Arizona woman was killed by a self-driving Uber car in Tempe, Arizona.

“There should be a national moratorium on all driverless car testing on public roads until the complete details of this tragedy are made public and are analyzed by outside experts so we understand what went so terribly wrong,” said John M. Simpson, the group’s privacy and technology project director. “Arizona has been the Wild West of driverless car testing with virtually no regulations in place. That’s why Uber and Waymo test there. When there’s no sheriff in town, people get killed.”

The deadly incident happened Sunday at approximately 10 p.m., according to the Tempe police, when the car hit a pedestrian. The victim later died at the hospital. The car was in autonomous self-driving mode at the time of the collision and had a human behind the wheel in the car.

The tragedy underscores the difficulty driverless cars have in interacting with pedestrians and cyclists, as well as human-driven vehicles, according to Consumer Watchdog. “Such shortcomings in the autonomous technology were made clear in the disengagement reports that companies are required to file when they are permitted to test in California. The reports, which document when a test driver had to intervene, are filed annually with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ website. No such disclosures are required in Arizona,” said a statement by Consumer Watchdog.

Earlier this year 20 companies released disengagement reports showing driverless cars cannot go more than 5,596 miles in the best-case scenario without a human test driver taking over the wheel. In most cases, the vehicles cannot travel more than a few hundred miles without needing human intervention, Consumer Watchdog noted.

Despite the information revealed in these reports, the California DMV gave driverless cars the green light to hit the road without a human driver ready to take control next month.

“If driverless cars are already killing people even with the presence of a human driver in the car, how lethal are these technologies going to be next month when they will roam public roads without a human onboard ready to take control?” asked Sahiba Sindhu, a consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog.

Consumer Watchdog said all data from the fatal Arizona crash should be made public so it can be analyzed by outside experts. The group said Uber has demonstrated a concern about rushing driverless vehicles on to the road, not a concern about safety.