By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden plans to appoint the No.2 auto safety chief and a former California Air Resources Board official to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the White House confirmed on Tuesday .
Steven Cliff, who has been deputy administrator since February, has been a key figure in the Biden administration’s proposed rewrite of fuel economy standards through 2026 and oversees the department’s ongoing safety investigation into Tesla Inc and the survey to find out if 30 million vehicles produced by nearly two a dozen car manufacturers have unsafe air bags.
Reuters first announced Cliff’s scheduled appointment earlier Tuesday.
An official separately told Reuters that Duke University professor of engineering and computer science, Missy Cummings, was appointed as NHTSA’s new senior security adviser.
The NHTSA, which is part of the US Department of Transportation, faces a backlog of pending auto safety regulations and has not had a Senate-confirmed administrator since January 2017. There hasn’t even been a candidate for the highest NHTSA position since 2019.
In August, the NHTSA proposed to significantly revise the Trump administration’s rollback of corporate average fuel economy rules, proposing to increase fuel efficiency by 8% per year for the 2024-2026 model years.
Cliff, a former assistant general manager of the California Air Board, said the proposal reduced “climate pollution by about the same amount as if we were taking more than 5 million vehicles off the road today.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has seen a sustained increase in road deaths that NHTSA has attributed to impaired driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt and drunk driving. ‘other dangerous behaviors.
Last month, NHTSA estimated 8,730 people died in car crashes in the first three months of 2021, up from 7,900 deaths in the same period last year – up 10.5% despite a 2.1% drop in the number of kilometers traveled.
Last month, NHTSA asked Tesla why it hadn’t issued a recall regarding software updates to its Autopilot driver assistance system.
The NHTSA in August opened an official safety investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system in 765,000 US vehicles after a series of crashes involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles.
The NHTSA issued an order in June requiring automakers and operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance or automated driving systems to immediately report accidents.
Cummings in a 2018 interview said the United States needed “a whole new regulatory framework in which an agency like NHTSA would oversee” autonomous vehicles, adding that the agency “has the power to require testing and other interventions, but she doesn’t. “