Thursday, July 27, 2017

Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor

Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor
By Melanie Zanona - 07/27/2017
A driverless car bill is quickly moving through the House, as Congress races to pass the first federal legislation to address the emerging technology.

The Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a legislative package Thursday that would bar states from setting certain driverless car rules and allow manufacturers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles per year without meeting existing auto safety standards.

The bill, which comes one week after it was approved by a subcommittee, was the product of bipartisan negotiations, which were reflected in the form of a substitute amendment that dropped late Wednesday night. It is sponsored by Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).


The Senate is also working on similar legislation, which could be released in the coming days.


The House bill would prohibit states from imposing laws related to the design, construction or performance of self-driving cars. But local governments would still maintain traditional auto responsibilities, such as licensing, registration, insurance and law enforcement.

Democrats had been concerned that the initial draft would step on states’ abilities to protect residents, but said they were pleased with the final text, which narrowed the pre-emption language. It also clarified that state motor vehicle dealer laws would not be pre-empted.

Democrats were also happy that the NHTSA will be required to do rulemakings and set a priority safety plan under the proposal, while the industry will be required to submit Safety Assessment Certifications.

Manufacturers are also required to consider cybersecurity and consumer privacy issues during development — a major priority for Democrats and some Republicans.


Democrats secured language in the measure that requires a phase-in period for the exemptions, so they don’t all hit the roads at once. The measure also requires all exempted vehicles to be made public and requires that any crash involving an exempted vehicle must be reported.

Lawmakers have hailed driverless cars for their power to save lives, reduce traffic and enhance mobility.

To help ensure that, the bill would create an advisory committee to focus on giving seniors and the disabled community access to autonomous vehicles.

The provision was particularly meaningful for Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), who has a 28-year-old son with a disability who depends on others for rides.

“This opens up possibilities for those who have disabilities. ... This is probably the biggest challenge we have with our son,” Harper said. “We are excited about what this will do.”

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