Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Automated vehicle technology is moving fast — too fast to regulate, some would argue — but there are ways the industry can collaborate to ensure safety without stifling innovation.

The big picture: Tech and automotive companies are developing proprietary AV driving systems and strategies, from robo-taxis to delivery pods to heavy-duty trucks. If each shared their own critical safety data collected during testing, experts say they could use it to define standards and practices to guide future development.

What's happening: Congress was set to adjourn for the year without voting on a bill on self-driving cars, leaving in place a patchwork of state regulations but no overarching standards.

What we're hearing: Some AV developers say it's not the end of the world that Congress failed to pass the AV Start bill, as long as there are other ways to standardize the technology and ensure safety.

"Everything is moving so quickly, by the time you regulate it, it would be totally obsolete. What we need is a path from innovation to data-driven best practices and that will set the path for regulations in the future."
— Mark Rosekind, chief safety innovation officer at AV start-up Zoox and former NHTSA Administrator

What's needed, says Rosekind, who led NHTSA from 2014 to 2016, is for companies to share what they've learned from their mistakes, so others don't make them, too.

The airline industry is a good model, he says.

The auto industry has a lousy record of sharing information that will make cars safer.

  • NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) has data on U.S. traffic fatalities going back to 1975.
  • But it failed to help detect a pattern of fatalities in the late 1990s that led to the Ford-Firestone tire debacle.
  • In response, Congress in 2000 enacted the TREAD Act, which included an "early warning" requirement to report potential safety issues.
  • Still, problems persisted. GM, Honda and Fiat Chrysler all were hit with record penalties for not reporting safety issues in a timely manner.

What's different now: Connected, autonomous vehicles can be fixed quickly through over-the-air updates. Although there can be security risks, safety problems can be addressed quickly this way.

The bottom line: AV technology continues to advance, but consumer trust — as much as the technology's readiness — will determine how quickly AVs are adopted. Absent government regulation, the industry may need to set its own standards to gain consumer confidence.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 12,528,449 — Total deaths: 560,921 — Total recoveries — 6,907,072Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 3,187,270 — Total deaths: 134,117 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
  3. Public health: We're losing the war on the coronavirusThe reality of the coronavirus bites.
  4. Business: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship — How the coronavirus pandemic boosted alternative meat.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem.

Romney calls Stone commutation "historic corruption"

Sen. Mitt Romney. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Saturday tweeted a scathing response to President Trump's Friday night commutation of former associate Roger Stone's prison sentence, calling the move "[u]nprecedented, historic corruption."

Why it matters: Romney has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic. He sent shockwaves through Washington after announcing he would vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial — becoming the only Senate Republican to break ranks and vote for the president's removal from office. Now he is the first major GOP lawmaker to condemn Trump's Friday night call regarding Stone.

5 hours ago - Health

We're losing the war on the coronavirus

Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

By any standard, no matter how you look at it, the U.S. is losing its war against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The pandemic is not an abstraction, and it is not something that’s simmering in the background. It is an ongoing emergency ravaging nearly the entire country, with a loss of life equivalent to a Sept. 11 every three days — for four months and counting.