For Mothers Against Drunk Driving® and for me as National President, it was an honor to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on June 14. It was an honor to be the voice of all the victims MADD has, and will, serve. It was clear from the Senators’ comments that they value and the opinion of MADD. Many of them said they were proud to work with MADD and thanked me for sharing my personal story.
The hearing concerned the development of autonomous vehicle technology. And while the other three witnesses were experts on automobiles and the technology, MADD was clearly considered to be a major stakeholder because successful development of this technology could lead to the end of drunk driving — a goal that we have worked toward for more than 36 years.
I was there to encourage development of this exciting technology and offer four recommendations for the Senators to consider:
Support federal regulatory framework. It is important that the playing field be level and states should leave the self-driving car safety issues to the automotive safety experts at the federal level. To that end, it is critical that the Congress and/or the administration provide the necessary guidance and regulations to the autonomous vehicle community in order to allow a national roll-out of this technology. Emphasis must be placed on ensuring that the technology is safe, and that processes are followed to ensure that rigorous safety standards are followed, and that effective methods for educating the public on technologies are developed. We believe the DOT/NHTSA Autonomous Vehicle Policy issued last year is a good beginning for providing safety guidance to those companies developing Highly Automated Vehicles. MADD and others in the traffic safety community look forward to working with the Committee to help ensure that public safety is of the highest priority, that the development of the technology continues at a rapid pace, and that future public acceptance comes to fruition.
Support existing state regulatory system. The state role in autonomous vehicles is to continue doing what they do for conventional vehicles today. This includes titling, registration, insurance requirements, etc. States should not regulate the safety of autonomous vehicles because they do not have the technical expertise to do so and their involvement could hinder the technological progress in the deployment of this life-saving technology.
Support for level four and five autonomous technologies. For MADD’s purposes, it is important that vehicles achieve level four and level five automation (i.e., vehicles that do not require a human driver in at least certain environments or under certain conditions). Drunk driving is arguably the biggest killer on our roadways. Alcohol and drug impairment have lasting effects, so it is imperative for maximum safety that the car be able to completely take control and remove the driver from driving.
Support for evaluating the technology as it evolves. The Autonomous Vehicle Policy includes provisions for recording and sharing information on system capabilities and data on events, incidents, and crashes. These data can be used to enhance the safety benefits of the technology and should be standardized, anonymous, absent of propriety information, and made available not only to the federal government but also to states, researchers, and the public.
To be the voice of the victims to the members of the committee allowed me to convey the devastation that this 100% preventable crime still causes every day. My hope is that by witnessing to them, Congress will help move forward the development of autonomous vehicle technology, and that one day we can celebrate and say……NO MORE VICTIMS®.