Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune and Senator Gary Peters announced last week they have come to a bipartisan agreement which would remove some regulations making it tough to roll out self-driving cars and enabling them to hit the road sooner.
Senator Peters said, “Self-driving vehicles will completely revolutionize the way we get around in the future, and it is vital that public policy keep pace with these rapidly developing lifesaving technologies that will be on our roads in a matter of years.”
In a joint statement, Thune and Peters continued, “While this Senate self-driving vehicle legislation still has room for further changes, it is a product of bipartisan cooperation we both stand behind. Ultimately, we expect the adoption of self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs.” Research has shown 93 percent of accidents occur due to human error with distracted driving the number one cause of road collisions. Those who back the legislation hope self-driving options will reduce this alarming rate.
Last month, the House passed similar legislation that would make self-driving cars more accessible. Essentially automakers would be allowed to sell up to 25,000 vehicles in the first year. By year three, this number would increase to 100,000 if they can prove the cars are safe. Automakers would need to submit safety reports to regulators for review, but they wouldn’t have to get premarket approval to begin selling the self-guided cars.
The original bill, known as the American Vision for Safer Transportation though Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, was quite broad, including many provisions to monitor the performance of the futuristic vehicles. The bill proposed an increase in safety oversight of manufacturers in addition to guidance for research on traffic safety. It also asked for a strengthening of cyber security policies to protect the information of drivers.
This bill does not address commercial vehicles, such as buses and semi-trucks. However, Frederick Hill, Communications Director for the Commerce Committee said, “Sen. Thune is considering a separate effort on legislation to help with the advancement of self-driving truck and bus technology.”
“Michigan has the workforce, the partnerships, and innovative spirit to be the national and global leader in autonomous and connected vehicles,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “I applaud Senator Peters for being our champion on the Senate Commerce Committee on this issue and for authoring this bipartisan legislation that will help secure Michigan’s future as a leader in mobility.”
Critics of the bill have pointed out that it would disable states from imposing performance requirements and it gives too much power to the auto companies. “The public will be the crash-test dummy for this dangerous experiment,” former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Joan Claybrook argued, adding that the industry “is essentially trying to deregulate auto safety.” Jason Levine, head of the Center for Auto Safety, added that there was an “absence of corporate caution in the rush to be first to get self-driving cars on the road.”