Friday, April 8, 2016 | Washington, D.C.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
April 8, 2016
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you all for being here today.
This is our first public meeting as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develops guidelines for the safe deployment of automated safety technology.
The Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Secretary Foxx, is leaning forward on automated vehicles.
And there is one number that explains why.
32,675. That’s how many people died on America’s roadways in 2014.
But that’s not just a number. That’s how many families lost a loved one, how many friends we lost.
In the United States, we lose the equivalent of a 747 crashing every single week due to roadway fatalities.
And in 94 percent of those crashes, we know that a different human choice could have made the difference between life and death.
That is the promise of automation, and it is why we are aggressively looking for new technologies that could help save lives.
At NHTSA, our first -- and really our only -- concern is safety.
I believe that too often we talk about a tension, or striking a balance, between safety and innovation, as if there is a trade-off between the two.
It is true that there are real and significant questions about the safety of new technology. At the same time that new technology is bringing safety advancements, it can also create new vulnerabilities and risks.
That is why we are taking a deliberative approach, making sure we get the safety advancements we know work to market, while also making sure that new automated technology is safe.
But I would challenge us to think about this not as seeking a balance between safety and innovation as on the opposite sides of a spectrum. Instead, we are focused on promoting safety innovation, aligning our actions and priorities around what will do the most to save the most number of lives.
I want to take a moment to explain what NHTSA is doing on autonomous vehicles.
In January, Secretary Foxx announced the Department’s strategy on autonomous vehicles. That strategy has five main elements:
First: President Obama has proposed a 10-year, $3.9 billion investment in automated safety technologies. That investment will enable a number of key initiatives, from funding large-scale pilot deployments around the country and funding additional research into automation technologies and cybersecurity.
Second: NHTSA is using its existing authorities to issue regulatory interpretations and exemptions to enable safety innovation.
Third: NHTSA is developing operational guidance for the safe deployment of automated vehicles. This guidance will provide manufacturers and other stakeholders with guidelines for how NHTSA expects safe automated vehicles to behave in a variety of conditions.
Fourth: NHTSA is working with partners to develop model state policy on automated vehicles. Our goal here is to respond to the many states that have reached out to NHTSA for guidance in this area, and to help them develop policies that mesh with policies in their neighbor states and policy we at the federal level are developing, so that we can have a uniform nationwide framework to help enable innovation.
Fifth, and finally: we are working to develop a plan for what new tools and authorities we might need to fulfill our safety mission in this new era.
That brings us to today.
At NHTSA, we are seeking to engage as many stakeholders as we can to get their ideas and expertise as we build these policies.
Our goal is to build operational guidance, and we’re looking for your help to do so.
This public meeting is one opportunity to hear from a range of people who bring unique perspectives on this issue.
We have also announced that we will be having a second public meeting, on the opposite coast in California. I can announce today that that meeting will be on April 27 and held on the campus of Stanford University.
We are here to listen, and we look forward to continuing this discussion in the days and weeks to come.
Before we get to it, there is one more number that I would like to leave you with:
613,501. That’s the number of lives that have been saved because of vehicle safety advancements in the last 50 years.
That’s seatbelts and air bags, and other safety technological innovations that we know work.
Technology has a proven track record of saving lives. We may be on the cusp of a safety innovation revolution.
How many more lives could be saved? We are excited to find out the answer.