(Ethan Barton, The Daily Caller News Foundation) – Self-driving autos don’t need passengers watching rear and side-view mirrors but federal bureaucrats told Google in 2016 that their new vehicle still must have the familiar safety features, according to a non-profit government watchdog.
Requiring mirrors on driverless cars is just one of multiple examples cited by a Competitive Enterprise Institute report made public Wednesday contending that excessive federal regulations are often a huge obstacle to improving transportation safety.
Transportation manufacturers have the technology to improve safety, but government red tape prevents improvements and innovation in many cases, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute report.
“Safety is a major concern when it comes to transporting passengers and freight around the country, but too often regulators make it difficult for industries to find new, innovative ways to meet their safety goals,” according to report author Marc Scribner, a CEI senior fellow.
“The best way to improve transportation safety is to replace government micromanaging with performance goals, which would hold industries more accountable and encourage new technologies and practices that improve safety,” Scribner said.
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each ordered federal agencies to rely on regulations that rely on performance, rather than methodology, but only limited progress has been made, according to the report.
One example of a performance-based regulation is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) airbag requirement. The agency requires automobile manufacturers to install airbags that deploy at certain forces and are tested on dummies. How airbags are installed and deployed is not regulated.
In contrast, NHTSA requires side-view and rearview mirrors in all passenger cars, despite that superior cameras or even automated driving could replace their need, according to the report. Self-driving cars wouldn’t need humans monitoring mirrors, but NHTSA officials told Google in 2016 that they were still required on their automated automobiles.
Auto safety regulations, however, are typically performance-based as a whole, according to the report. Pipelines, aviation, trucking and railroad regulations more frequently face restrictive regulations.
Passenger railcars, for example, must be rigid to prevent a railcar from smashing into the car in front of it during a crash. Consequently, manufacturers can’t implement new techniques to prevent a pile-up such as railcars “crumpling at the ends to absorb crash energy,” like those made abroad, the report said.
“These outmoded regulations greatly increase the weight and bulk of U.S. railcars and prohibit railroads from purchasing foreign railcars off the shelf, increasing costs and perversely increasing crash risks, as heavier railcars take longer to decelerate,” the report continued.
The Federal Railroad Administration recently proposed a rule that would allow alternative safety equipment, but it would only apply to passenger cars and not freight rail, where “crashes generally pose far lower risks to human life,” the report said.
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