US consumer advocacy body Consumer Watchdog has issued a warning about what it calls the “revolving door” between government auto safety officials and autonomous vehicle manufacturers.
The group is concerned that regular moves by senior government officials into the autonomous vehicles sector risk undercutting the public’s faith in industry regulation.
Consumer Watchdog highlighted several examples of such moves, pointing to Uber’s recent appointment of Nat Beuse, a senior official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Consumer Watchdog said that Beuse was “at least the sixth” such official to leave a government position to work for an autonomous vehicle manufacturer.
“You can’t trust regulations to protect our safety when the people writing them land high paying jobs with the very companies the rules are supposed to cover,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy and Technology Project director.
“People serving in top government auto safety positions should not take jobs with, serve as a consultant to, or become a lawyer for a company developing self-driving car technology for seven years after leaving their government post,” said Simpson.
Other examples cited by Consumer Watchdog included Waymo’s hiring of former NTSB Chair Debbie Hershman; the company’s appointment of former NHTSA Deputy Director Ron Medford; Zoox’s appointment of former NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind; and General Motors’ hiring of former NHTSA Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh to oversee legal and policy work on automated vehicles.
The body also noted that David Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator, serves as counsel and spokesman for the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which involves Waymo, Lyft, Uber, Ford and Volvo.