WASHINGTON — The new chief of the nation’s prime auto security regulator mentioned the company hasn’t been holding again as it really works by way of a backlog of regulatory to-dos, types by way of first-of-its-kind crash information and steps up an investigation into Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot.
“I think we’ve probably increased the scrutiny on all automakers since last year,” mentioned Steven Cliff, who was confirmed by the Senate in May as NHTSA’s sixteenth administrator. The company had been with no everlasting chief since 2017, when Mark Rosekind resigned because the Trump administration took over.
“We’re making sure that the regulations we have on the books are implemented,” he mentioned. “If we don’t have regulations but there’s still a safety defect, we’re addressing those issues and getting new regulations on the books as quickly as we can — and all in an effort to enhance safety.”
Cliff, 52, spoke Wednesday from his workplace on the U.S. Department of Transportation in his first interview with Automotive News since being sworn in as the brand new NHTSA chief.
He beforehand was the company’s deputy administrator — a task he had been in since shortly after President Joe Biden was inaugurated in 2021, a 12 months that noticed 1,093 issued recollects, “the most in NHTSA’s history,” Cliff mentioned.
The company — even previous to the Biden administration — typically has been criticized by security advocates and lawmakers for a major backlog of regulatory security to-dos. As administrator, Cliff mentioned he is made it a precedence to sort out the checklist and get as many laws completed as doable.
“The regulatory work, I think, is kind of our bread and butter here,” he mentioned. “So, getting those regulations done was really key to the agency.”
By the tip of June, NHTSA may have completed 16 ultimate guidelines, initiated 25 new rule-makings and issued notices of proposed rule-makings on 5 guidelines in addition to a request for touch upon updates to its New Car Assessment Program since Cliff joined the company.
Under its new chief, NHTSA additionally launched first-of-its-kind information on crashes linked to superior driver-assistance techniques and absolutely automated-driving techniques.
Of the practically 400 crashes reported to the company involving driver-assist techniques, Tesla and American Honda Motor Co. reported essentially the most. The company cautioned, nonetheless, that the info is preliminary and is affected by an organization’s entry to crash information, unverified or incomplete incident reviews, a number of reviews of the identical crash and different limitations.
“It wasn’t part of our objective to gather data to compare systems,” Cliff mentioned. “It was our objective to gather data in order to get much-needed data about the safety of the technologies in general and for us to use that information to follow up on specific incidents where we can learn more information about what contributed to that incident.”
The information already has been used to set off recollects and inform new and ongoing security probes akin to NHTSA’s just lately upgraded investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system after a collection of crashes within the U.S. that resulted in additional than a dozen accidents and one loss of life.
It can be serving to the company because it prepares to subject a proposal to require automated emergency braking, together with pedestrian detection, on all new light-duty autos and set minimal efficiency requirements by the tip of the 12 months.
The expertise, a part of superior driver-assistance techniques, can keep away from or reduce the severity of crashes however has been problematic for some motorists because it turns into extra frequent throughout all makes and fashions.
To finalize the rule, Cliff mentioned, NHTSA must present the expertise can meet the requirements and that the company has goal assessments for figuring out compliance.
This previous 12 months, NHTSA opened two separate investigations involving Tesla and Honda autos after receiving a whole bunch of complaints alleging sudden activation of the automated emergency braking system, characterised by some Tesla house owners as “phantom braking.”
“It is, I think, incumbent on the industry — as well as us working with industry — to make sure that any new technology doesn’t have a defect and that if a defect is identified that it’s handled appropriately, usually through a recall,” Cliff mentioned.
Asked about Tesla’s choice this month to carry again its Enhanced Autopilot driver-assist bundle — a $6,000 characteristic that sits between commonplace Autopilot and the unfinished Full Self-Driving beta software program at $12,000 — the NHTSA chief mentioned the company’s work with the electrical car maker entails “constant communication and a really good understanding of when new technologies are going to be introduced.”
“We think that safety is enhanced when we know about things that are happening and there’s been a discussion,” Cliff mentioned. “Generally speaking, that’s how we’ve approached the industry, and I think the industry has been really responsive.”