On Friday, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Mark Rosekind told an audience in Detroit, Michigan that car makers “cannot wait for perfect” when it comes to developing and deploying self-driving car technology. The Wall Street Journal reported that Rosekind said automation would “save people’s lives” in a time when auto fatalities have been up 8 percent since 2014.
Rosekind’s comments come after a man using Tesla’s autopilot system fatally crashed into a left-turning truck in Florida. The incident is believed to be one of the first involving a car in autonomous mode. Tesla has said that the car’s sensors didn’t register the image of the left-turning truck in the glare of the bright Florida sun. Although Rosekind didn’t address the Tesla crash explicitly, he noted that the NHTSA’s mandate is to reduce fatalities. Taking human error out of the process of driving could theoretically reduce fatal crashes.
Despite Tesla’s most recent crash, regulators seem enthusiastic about getting more autonomous vehicles on the road in the near future. Earlier this week, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told an audience in San Francisco that “autonomous doesn’t mean perfect,” but that “we need industry to take the safety aspects of this very seriously.”