The recent crash involving a Tesla Model S appears to have spurred a legislative push to institute mandates for new vehicles making them safer, specifically technology ensuring drivers are paying attending while behind the wheel.
The Stay Aware for Everyone, or SAFE, Act is designed to mitigate issues surrounding distracted driving. The trio believes the increased use of advanced driver assistance systems encourage motorists to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel.
Although not specifically mentioning Tesla and its Autopilot technology, the timing of the reintroduction of the legislation is difficult to ignore. It should be noted that the investigation into the Houston-area crash is ongoing and it’s not been determined it Autopilot played role in the crash and subsequent fire that resulted in two fatalities.
New safety legislation
“Every year on average, over 36,000 people are killed and nearly three million more are injured in motor vehicle crashes,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) in a statement. “These numbers reveal a public health crisis that we must not accept as inevitable. We can prevent these unnecessary tragedies with proven strategies and technologies.
“That’s why I am proud to reintroduce a robust legislative package that will address several of the most dangerous safety issues on our roads. As Congress debates infrastructure and surface transportation reauthorization in the weeks ahead, I will fight for these bills and ensure that safety is at the forefront of everything we do. Upgrading our roads and highways also means upgrading safety.”
Sens Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota joined Markey in introducing that measure. It’s part of a four-bill package of auto safety bills introduced Monday. The goal is to get them added to the massive $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill.
The Tesla crash highlights one of the issues with semi-autonomous driving technology. Tesla is either the poster child or whipping boy for the issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened 28 probes into Tesla crashes, with 24 pending, where Autopilot was suspected of being in use, according to Reuters.
Three other auto safety bills
Recent events likely helped to put the Promoting Auto Recalls Toward Safety (PARTS) Act on the list. American Honda revealed late last week faulty Takata airbag inflators are being blamed for a South Carolina driver’s death — the 19th in the U.S.
The PARTS Act aims to apply lessons learned from the ongoing Takata recall — the largest in history — to improve the repair rate of vehicles subject to a recall.
It specifically authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide grants to states for use in notifying registered motor vehicle owners about manufacturer-issued safety recalls, as well as require additional reporting and an annual scorecard on how effectively automakers are completing any recalls.
The Early Warning Reporting Systems Improvement Act is designed to “fill a safety gap created by the historically low number of defect investigations launched by NHTSA in recent years,” according to a statement. The legislation requires automakers to provide more information about incidents involving fatalities and serious injuries directly to the public. It also mandates NHTSA to deliver the information it receives publicly available in a user-friendly format, so users can better evaluate potential safety defects themselves.
The fourth bill — the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act — requires NHTSA to update its standards for seat back integrity in new vehicles. The current standard has remained largely unchanged for decades, allowing for a slew of back seat passenger fatalities, mostly children.