As explained in this LA Times article, a study done by the National Research Council at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA, the federal agency in charge of passenger car safety) has concluded that NHTSA does not currently have the technical know-how to properly review the safety of today's high-tech vehicles. Here's the beginning of the article:
The nation's top auto safety regulator is ill-equipped to detect problems with high-tech electronics that are increasingly commonplace in today's cars, a new government study has concluded. Calling such shortcomings "troubling," the report called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to review its technical capabilities and appoint an advisory panel to help it evaluate potentially serious risks associated with systems such as adaptive cruise control. Despite those findings, the National Research Council found in a 162-page report that NHTSA's decision to close its investigation of sudden acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles was appropriate, and backed its conclusion that there was no evidence that an electronic defect caused the dangerous problem. Nonetheless, the proliferation of computerized devices poses new challenges for NHTSA, and "the agency needs to plan for the future of electronics in vehicles," said Louis J. Lanzerotti, a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and chairman of the committee that authored the report.