Goodbye, Auto Safety Regulator! We Hardly Knew You


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In an unexpected move, the United States Transportation Department has lost its top auto safety regulator after only four months on the job.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s director, Steven Cliff, said on Friday that he will step down from his position in September, according to the Department of Transportation.

According to a statement from Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ann Carlson, the chief counsel of NHTSA, will take up Cliff’s responsibilities.

Cliff, who took over as NHTSA director in early June, is resigning to lead the California Air Resources Board, a state body tasked with lowering air pollution. After Richard Corey, the previous CEO, departed at the end of June, CARB announced on Friday that Cliff had been selected as the new CEO.

Cliff worked on new fuel efficiency requirements and vehicle safety regulations that are meant to improve the safety of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians during his time at the NHTSA. As manufacturers have embraced more cutting-edge technology, the agency is having to deal with worries about the safety of the batteries in electric vehicles and the software that controls them.

Because of how frequently the driver aid software fails, automotive safety advocates, notably Ralph Nader, have been urging NHTSA to prevent Tesla from testing incomplete driver assistance software with regular customers on public U.S. roadways.

Cliff convinced the organisation to establish a “standing general order,” which requires automakers to give NHTSA information on fatal and other severe crashes using their vehicles and more advanced automatic driving systems (ADAS).

Tesla’s Autopilot, Full Self-Driving and FSD Beta systems, Ford’s Blue Cruise, and Cadillac’s SuperCruise are ADAS options that are available in consumer vehicles. None of them produce vehicles that are reliable to use without a careful driver. Robotaxis are being developed by Waymo, Cruise, and other companies and include automated driving systems.

Cliff served as the NHTSA’s deputy administrator from February 2021 until President Joe Biden selected him in October to take over as administrator.

Cliff’s service at the organisation and efforts “to preserve the lives of the American people by increasing the safety of motor vehicles and decreasing their emissions” were acknowledged by Secretary Buttigieg.

NHTSA declined to provide any more information on Cliff’s departure’s circumstances.


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