— Driverless cars with no steering wheels aren't ready for prime-time and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allegedly ought to have enough common sense to accept that fact.
That's the position of the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) which believes the federal agency responsible for driver safety should focus on that very job.
According to the Center, NHTSA believes current federal safety standards are standing in the way of autonomous progress that could one day decrease fatalities.
But CAS says NHTSA is taking things too far in considering to allow companies to test their driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals on public roads.
The Center argues there is no evidence vehicles without steering wheels or pedals can operate safely on public roads filled with other vehicles, occupants and pedestrians.
Current regulations were written for vehicles with manual controls, but driverless car companies claim those regulations hold back innovation.
NHTSA has so far been seated in the back of the room during the debate, generally claiming voluntary guidelines are good enough to protect the public. And as proof, CAS says the government can't even mandate current proven safety technology such as automatic emergency braking.
In addition, CAS says autonomous technology is in its infancy and "quite likely decades away from widespread practical utility."
Although it's true current standards were not created with driverless cars in mind, the Center says there is a reason the standards exist.
"These standards were not written for vehicles without steering wheels, brake pedals, gear selectors, or a human in control, but they were written to assure the safety of human occupants."
As for the argument current laws stand in the way of development of autonomous vehicles, the Center for Auto Safety says it's an empty argument without merit.
"In fact, it is the Department of Transportation’s insistence on deregulation as the answer to all questions that is the real barrier to a roadway to safer vehicles."