The bill could allow up to 100,000 autonomous cars a year to be exempted from certain safety standards while the technology is developing. (Photo: Texas A&M Transportation Institute)​

House approves bill to ease deployment of self-driving cars

Sept. 6, 2017
Commercial vehicles excluded; Senate to hold hearing on autonomous trucks next week

The House passed legislation on Sept. 6 that gives the Department of Transportation (DOT) the ability to set performance standards for autonomous vehicles under 10,000 lbs.

The bill (H.R. 3388), which now goes to the Senate, requires DOT to develop rules regarding self-driving cars sharing highways with standard vehicles. It could allow for as many as 100,000 such vehicles a year to be exempted from certain safety standards while the technology is developing.

It is unclear when the Senate may consider the bill, but the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next week on automated trucks. Commercial vehicles are not included as part of the House bill.

“The future of the automobile is here and this bill will give the automotive industry the tools it needs to completely revolutionize how we will get around for decades to come,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Manufacturers would be required to develop cybersecurity plans for detecting and responding to cyberattacks, as well as ways to protect personal data of owners. States would still have authority over licensing, insurance, and law enforcement.

“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.

David St. Amant, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, called the vote “an important first step in creating the framework for the safe introduction of highly autonomous vehicles into our nation’s transportation system.”

In a separate development, Reuters reported that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is expected to issue revised self-driving vehicle guidelines next week in Michigan. The White House Office of Management and Budget approved changes to the guidelines on Aug. 31.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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