The NHTSA is charging into the driverless-vehicle story, reconfirming its role as safety rulemaker and enforcer. What onlookers could have confidence in no-driver cars upholds the NHTSA’s sanction that such cars are as safe as driver-drivens? Electric cars without long-range limits are one thing, as is freedom from fires of e-car lithium-ion batteries. Finally: Risking an e-car fire is just as risky as having a driverless car plow into a drive-in restaurant. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” works as a rule of thumb. Oh yes: You can’t stop progress! But you can stop daredevils-and no one in his right mind sees members of the NHTSA or the White House steering a driverless car around the Belt Way!
Whoops! Just as driverless cars and rear-end Jeep fires vie for automotive industry headlines, the newly activist NHTSA pops its corks and rounds out a double play which revives anti-industry moves against automakers in the U.S.
The big surprise was the revelation that safety compliance regulations are being drafted by tester auto R & A centers, amid fears that self-driven vehicles would have a hard time meeting the federal agency’s stiff standards on safety.
Heaven help the self-controlling vehicles that cause some fatal crashes for lack of steering wheels much less drivers!
On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to pilot the first driverless vehicles? Weren’t they not unlike the pioneers of internal combustion engines in the 1900s, not to omit the first cars with “automatic” starters or without emergency brakes turn signals!
As a sidebar to the appraisal of driverless cars, which may be an exercise in futility, Chrysler declared it would not recall up to 2.7 million Jeep vehicles which are fire risks in rear-end collisions.
Chrysler’s attitude of resistance hurts the No. 3 automaker’s public relations-and promises a court fight if the NHTSA implements its position and orders consumer recalls to repair suspect parts.
Is there any auto problem more threatening than a fire?
That’s Chrysler’s challenge to overcome if the NHTSA demands enforcement of the approaching mandate to douse the fire risk.
P.S: Unfortunately, Chrysler’s recall would require repositioning gas tanks away from transmissions and catalysts-a costly mandate indeed.
Would an appeal of the NHTSA action step up in Federal Courts? Reversal motions failed several years ago in the high-cost challenge by Toyota Motor of NHTSA’s orders for rectification of inadvertent braking systems.
At this time, the Toyota with “more money than god” was able to fund one of the costliest recalls in world history. But Chrysler is no Toyota when it comes to financing.
Fortunately, the U.S. Government is still a shareholder in Chrysler and as such, will top Alexander Hamiltons’ Federal Reserve piggy bank to pay for any federally-ordered recall.
And, as dealers have discovered during all the recalls, their service income escalates when recalls are mandated. Says Gordon Stewart, owner of a 32-dealership network in suburban Detroit, “It’s still better to be safe than sorry. Automakers and dealers have to rise to the call when safety issues are on the line.”