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Auto safety standards facing Office of Inspector General's audit

August 21, 2020
After more than 36,000 people were killed in U.S. traffic accidents in 2019, the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said Aug. 11 that it would audit oversight of U.S. vehicle safety standards.
The inspector general’s office said it was launching a review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s efforts to set and enforce Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
"Given the importance to the traveling public that all new vehicles and components meet federal safety standards, we are initiating a review of NHTSA’s FMVSS process," the inspector general’s office wrote.
The NHTSA said in a statement it would "work with the Office of Inspector General to provide any pertinent information requested."
In March, NHTSA proposed sweeping changes to U.S. safety requirements to speed the deployment of self-driving vehicles without human controls. It proposed rewriting 11 vehicle safety standards that require traditional manual controls "by revising the requirements and test procedures to account for the removal of manually-operated driving controls."
The NHTSA proposed revising rules for occupant protection, steering controls, glazing materials, door locks, seating systems, side impact protection, roof crush resistance and child restraint anchorage systems.
Companies such as General Motors, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, Uber Technologies and Ford are aggressively testing automated vehicles.
David Friedman, who was an NHTSA deputy administrator during the Obama administration, said the agency under President Donald Trump has failed to adopt any significant life-saving regulations.
"That is a clear failure to fulfill (the) NHTSA’s mission to save lives and prevent injuries, especially when you consider that there are technologies out there now that could cut the annual death toll in half," Friedman said.
It often takes NHTSA years to finalize changes or adopt new motor vehicle safety standards.
After Congress demanded rules in 2010, the NHTSA in February 2018 finalized rules requiring "quiet cars" such as electric vehicles to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians of their approach.