Driverless car industry luring federal safety brass
Driverless car companies are racing to scoop up top federal safety officials to fill out their ranks of advisers and lobbyists — creating worries that the fledgling industry will use its newly acquired influence to shape the coming wave of government regulations.
Companies like Uber, Lyft, General Motors and Google’s sibling Waymo have hired a phalanx of current and former Washington officials, including Obama administration Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several DOT highway regulators and two former chairs of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates deadly crashes.
Google and federal regulators have tended to have an especially close relationship when it comes to driverless cars. The Obama administration, for instance, took an innovation-friendly approach that sometimes translated into “regulators reaching out to Google asking them how to write the rules,” said Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group created by former members of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which maintains a “Google Transparency Project.”
“Not only was Google happy to lobby federal officials directly, but then they got regulators at the Department of Transportation to call state officials to weigh in on self-driving rules in a way that would benefit Google,” Stevens said.