Safety & Accident

House Advances Self-Driving Car Bill

July 19, 2017

Congressman Robert Latta on July 19 addresses the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. Screen shot courtesy of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and YouTube.
Congressman Robert Latta on July 19 addresses the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. Screen shot courtesy of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and YouTube.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to vote next week on legislation aimed at accelerating the testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles.

A subcommittee, by a voice vote, advanced the bill on July 19. The legislation seeks to reinforce federal regulatory authority over autonomous vehicle standards and restrict individual states from enforcing their own set of requirements affecting the vehicles’ mechanical, hardware and software systems.

The bill would also raise the cap on the number of vehicles that can qualify for exemption from existing federal motor vehicle safety standards, which are designed for traditional vehicles. The exempted-vehicle limit for a manufacturer would rise to 100,000 vehicles per 12-month period.

Proponents of the bill hope its passage will eliminate the patchwork of state laws affecting the design and construction of autonomous vehicles.

“From the front bumper to the back bumper, whether it’s a car, pickup truck or a van, how the vehicle works and its design should be the province of the federal government, as has been the case for more than 50 years,” said Representative Robert Latta (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. “That said, the states and localities have an equally important role to play in determining insurance requirements, titling cars, requiring registration, setting the rules of the road.”

The bill would also direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to publish rules and safety priorities for highly automated vehicles and require manufacturers to submit safety certificates for such vehicles. However, manufacturers wouldn’t need pre-market approval for the introduction of advanced vehicle technologies.

The intent of the bill is to remove unnecessary barriers to testing and deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies that will ultimately save lives. 

“We don’t have to accept a world where millions of accidents and thousands of fatalities on the roadway are a necessary evil of driving,” Latta said during the subcommittee’s markup session.

The legislation also would require autonomous vehicle manufacturers to submit a written cybersecurity plan that outlines vulnerability detection and response practices and identifies company managers responsible for cybersecurity measures.

Additionally, bill provisions mandate regular policy reviews by the secretary of transportation to ensure autonomous vehicle regulations don’t become outdated as technologies continue to evolve.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to accept proposed amendments to the bill.

“The draft before us is the product of bipartisan negotiations,” noted subcommittee member Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “It is not a final product. But I do believe we’re working in the right direction.”

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