Walden: New car tech can cut surge in highway deaths

Cites progress on the road to self-driving cars

WASHINGTON - Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led a hearing Tuesday on reducing traffic fatalities in Oregon and throughout the country. During the hearing, Walden cited the state’s decades-high number of vehicle-related deaths in 2016 as need for innovative solutions such as self-driving cars to improve the safety of Oregon’s roads. 

“Following years of declining traffic fatalities, there has been a sharp rise in vehicle-related deaths over the past two years.  According to early estimates, over 40,000 people lost their lives on our nation’s roads last year, marking a six percent increase from 2015,” Walden said.

“In Oregon, 2016 was the deadliest year on the roads in more than a decade, up 20 percent from the year before," he noted. "These are sobering numbers. The development of self-driving cars could be a solution to this uptick in danger facing the driving public. The main question is: how do we get there?

"Today, many cars on the market are equipped with active safety features or semi-autonomous driving systems.  These systems have the potential to keep a vehicle within its designated lane; accelerate to pass another vehicle; change lanes; brake; and park -- all without the input of a human driver. 

"These advanced driver -assistance systems or crash-avoidance technologies represent the building blocks to a fully self-driving car.

"Gradually allowing the vehicle to perform parts of the driving task absent human control means that vehicles are steadily learning how to operate alone and consumers are progressively becoming more familiar and more comfortable with automated driving systems,” Walden said.

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