Is the self-driving dream going to crash into a regulatory wall?

Since October, NHTSA has opened investigations into autonomous vehicle systems operated by Tesla, Ford, Zoox, and Cruise, suggesting a significant shift in approach to the nascent world of self-driving vehicles.

The probes have stepped up in number as the incidents involving self-driving vehicles have increased. Social media’s ubiquity has also meant that shocking videos of vehicles losing control, or disregarding the rules of the road, have been shared widely—potentially prompting NHTSA to step in…

Phil Koopman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has been working on self-driving car safety for more than 25 years, explains that the U.S. relies on two main regulatory gatekeepers: NHTSA, which plays a reactive role, and lawsuits. “Due to the number of vehicles on the road, most of these have been directed to Tesla,” Koopman says. “For a while Tesla was winning all the lawsuits. But given the recent settlement we might see other pressure from pending lawsuits for Tesla and other self-driving or robotaxi companies to up their safety game.”

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