President-elect Donald Trump should fire the General Motors Chairman and CEO from her position as co-chair of the newly formed Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation, a California-based watchdog group demands.
In a letter addressed to Trump, Consumer Watchdog — a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers” — says GM chairman and CEO says Mary Barra “should not lead a panel recommending how to deploy her company’s automated vehicles.”
The group expressed anger over the 25-member committee announced Wednesday, which they said does not have a consumer or citizen sitting on it.
“As you know, robot cars, trucks, drones and other technology threaten to replace tens of millions of American jobs, pose a danger to the safety of our roads and public spaces, and come with significant privacy and security threats,” the group wrote. “We should not allow the robot makers alone to oversee the safety of vehicles coming out of robot factories, but the Obama Administration’s eleventh-hour appointments do just that.”
The letter to Trump said: “In keeping with your campaign pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ and protect the interests of ordinary people, we ask that the first firing of your Administration be co-chair Mary Barra.”
GM said it would not comment on Consumer Watchdog’s demand, but said the company was pleased that Barra had been appointed by outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to co-chair the committee: “GM is committed to the belief that self-driving vehicles will provide tremendous benefits to society in terms of safety, convenience and quality of life and we look forward to being part of this important effort.”
Foxx appointed the committee, which was formed to “help determine how, when, and where automated technology will transform the way we move.”
Members of that committee include Rachel Holt, Uber’s regional general manager for the U.S. and Canada, John Krafcik, CEO of Alphabet’s Waymo autonomous driving company, John Zimmer, co-found and president of Lyft, the co-founder of Zipcar and multiple public officials and engineering professors, among others.
The group’s first meeting is Jan. 16. The committee members will serve 2-year terms, and cannot be consecutively reappointed more than twice.
When the establishment of the group was announced in late 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation said the department would select individuals “with in-depth knowledge of their respective industries or government sectors.”
Trump in December named Barra to a Strategic and Policy Forum that frequently will advise him on economic issues and jobs growth. That forum was “designed to provide direct input to the president from many of the best and brightest in the business world in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner.”
Consumer Watchdog called for more transparency in the testing as automotive and technology companies push toward putting autonomous vehicles on the road.
“Consumer Watchdog cannot fathom how a committee dominated by companies and trade associations will advocate for safety when doing so might cost money,” said the letter signed by Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog; John M. Simpson, the group’s privacy project director; and Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. “Fire those who don’t belong on this important advisory committee, beginning with its chair, Ms. Barra...”