US House passes bill to clear path for self-driving cars

Javier Howell
September 8, 2017

Reuters reported Tuesday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil revised self-driving guidelines on Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, citing sources.

So it's no small thing that the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a massive bill on Wednesday aimed at speeding the development of self-driving cars on public roads and superseding the patchwork of regulations in individual states. The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act, or the "Self Drive Act" now moves to the Senate.

The Self Drive Act provides exemptions to automakers for 25,000 autonomous test vehicles that don't meet safety standards in the first year and rises to 100,000 vehicles over three years. "With this legislation, innovation can flourish without the heavy hand of government", Ohio Republican Bob Latta said on the House floor before the voice vote.

Traditionally, the federal government has regulated vehicle safety, and states have handled vehicle operations, such as issuing driver licenses. Companies must draft security and privacy plans for autonomous vehicles and document their approach for ensuring self-driving auto safety. One sticking point will be whether to include commercial self-driving trucks in the legislation.

"While more work is needed, the bill that passed the House today represents good progress toward a law that will facilitate realization of the safety, mobility, and environmental benefits of self-driving vehicles", General Motors said in a statement. The bill, which had bipartisan appeal, now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan group is working on separate self-driving-car legislation. A bipartisan group of USA senators working on similar legislation has not introduced a bill.

It's likely that these new guidelines will take inspiration from the call that many automakers made last November, asking Trump to rethink and change self-driving guidelines that the Obama administration issued last September.

Automakers raised numerous concerns about the Obama administration guidance, including the suggestion that automakers should submit systems to regulators for review before putting them on the market. Companies must draft security and privacy plans for autonomous vehicles and document their approach for ensuring self-driving auto safety.

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