Support grows for federal legislation to regulate self-driving vehicles

A bipartisan bill to regulate self-driving vehicles, and bar states from introducing their own design and operation requirements, could come to a floor vote in the U.S. House when it reconvenes in September.

The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution (SELFDRIVE) Act, which passed unanimously and quickly through the House Energy and Commerce Committee in late July, will make it easier for manufacturers of the cars to test, and ultimately, market and deploy them on the road.

It is essentially the first step to federally regulate, and at the same time give the green light, to the deployment on the road of self-driving and highly automated vehicles.  

The legislation is supported by the Coalition for Future Mobility, a broad group includes auto dealers, suppliers, and manufacturers, and advocates for the blind, deaf, and elderly.

Wade Newton, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, said the position of his group on the bill is directly linked to the belief that "self-driving vehicle technology holds great promise to improve safety and transform mobility in the United States."

"Automakers have been developing these technologies for years and this legislation helps to address a variety of barriers that can block the ability to safely test and deploy these vehicle technologies," Newton told Mega Dealer News.

"There’s strong bipartisan support for the Energy and Commerce Committee’s self-driving vehicle legislation and we’re going to continue working with members on both sides of the aisle to make improvements as this bill moves forward," he said

"I can say that – generally speaking – automakers believe that federal leadership is needed to clarify the different roles federal and state governments have regarding HAVs," Newton said.

The automakers' position is that motor vehicle safety and performance standards should remain the responsibility of the federal government, "leaving the administration of traffic laws and enforcement, as well as driver and vehicle registration, licensing and insurance to the states."

"Action is also needed to update current vehicle safety standards and expand Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard exemptions to provide a safe mechanism for deploying highly automated vehicles," Newton said.

The bill  includes provisions ordering automakers to carry out and file more safety assessments to the federal government. It also tells them to tighten the vehicles’ cybersecurity defenses and publish policies on data they gather on drivers and their trips, a move to allay privacy concerns.

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Organizations in this story

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers 803 7th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001