Oct 28, 2022 - Economy

Buttigieg: Self-driving cars could be safer

Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg gesturing to an audience

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. secretary of transportation. Photo credit: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the self-driving car debate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg comes down squarely on the side of safety.

  • Technology "is not always the answer to everything," he added. "But frankly, it would be hard to do worse than human drivers when it comes to what we could get to theoretically with the right kind of safe autonomous driving."

Why it matters: The nation's top transportation official has to balance efforts to reduce the carnage on American highways with oversight of innovative technologies that could potentially create new hazards.

What's happening: Under Buttigieg, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of automated driving systems.

  • The agency has launched an investigation of Tesla's Autopilot system after a string of accidents.
  • Tesla is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, per Reuters, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, per the Wall Street Journal, for mischaracterizing the system's driver-assist features.

Autonomous vehicles could be involved in accidents, but Buttigieg says people need to keep the figures in perspective.

  • If "robots killed 10,000 people a year on the roads, there would be an uproar. But that would represent a 75% reduction in roadway deaths compared to where we are now. So we've got to make sure the reality and the perception of it is moving in the right direction."
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