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Ralph Nader Wants Auto Industry to Hit the Brakes on Self-Driving Cars

The consumer advocate and political activist says too much automation can be a bad and dangerous thing.

Ralph Nader wants the auto industry to slow down when it comes to self-driving cars. The consumer advocate and political activist told Automotive News that automakers’ rush to push automated features in vehicles could lead to more distracted driving — and therefore more deaths on the road.

"There are definite benefits of collision-avoidance systems. But the problem is once the auto companies get on to something, they don't know when to stop," Nader was quoted as saying.

"And so they are turning the automobile into an ever more complicated computer on wheels. Which means that the driver is losing control to the software, and the more the driver loses control to the software, the less the driver is going to be able to control the car down the road."

His comments this week came on the 50th anniversary of the publication of his 1965 book "Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile," in which he blasted the safety record of U.S. auto manufacturers.

Related: Google Self-Driving Car Gets Pulled Over — For Going Too Slowly

Nader’s misgivings notwithstanding, car makers in the U.S. and other countries are forging ahead with autonomous vehicles. A new Juniper Research report predicts consumer adoption of fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles will take off in 2021, and by 2025 there will be nearly 20 million such vehicles on the road. North America and western Europe will be the first to see driverless cars on the road, Juniper forecasts.

The report says the top five players in the self-driving car market right now are Google, Volvo, Daimler, Tesla and Apple (even though Apple hasn’t publicly confirmed it’s working on autonomous vehicles).

Related: Google Self-Driving Cars Face Slow Going From California DMV