Organizations representing the interests of U.S. autonomous vehicle (AV) companies, such as GM robotaxi subsidiary Cruise, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation calling on the government agency to back the American AV industry against Chinese competition.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association were among the contributors to the letter, which was addressed to Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Reuters reports.
The letter stresses the need for support because the Chinese are “aggressively investing and advancing the technology” in the AV arena. The organizations described how Department of Transportation “support for AV development is crucial to maintain our nation’s competitive edge” and asserted that the “industry is at a critical juncture and in need of strong leadership from USDOT.”
The organizations also stressed how they believe the use of autonomous vehicles will save numerous lives of people who would otherwise be killed in accidents because of driving while tired, drunk, or otherwise impaired.
The Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to the letter. Opponents of self-driving vehicles have also been contacting the Department in recent months. Back in early November, 20 unions sent their own letter to Buttigieg, demanding a full-scale investigation into all autonomous vehicle companies in the United States, including Zoox, Waymo, and Cruise.
The letter claimed AVs are “unsafe and untenable in their current form” and called for “an industry-wide investigation to determine the true extent of the safety failures behind the scenes.” The unions also stated that the National Highway Transport Safety Administration or NHTSA should “step up its regulatory authority to ensure these vehicles are being operated responsibly.”
Autonomous vehicle regulations have been in legislative limbo in Congress for half a decade, with no signs of that changing in the immediate future. Meanwhile, an incident in which a Cruise AV dragged a pedestrian who had been first struck by a human-driven vehicle led to a cascading series of responses taking The General’s robotaxis off the streets of multiple U.S. cities.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspensed Cruise’s driverless vehicle testing permit shortly after the incident, which left the pedestrian seriously injured and hospitalized. GM halted self-driving vehicle operations and canceled its plans to produce the ground-up driverless Cruise Origin robotaxi in 2024. The budget for Cruise has been reduced and robotaxi operations will eventually reopen in just one city, halting the rapid expansion of earlier 2023.
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities underline that they will work to ensure AVs are deployed safely when they eventually return to American streets.