- The House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee on July 27 unanimously approved the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act (H.R. 3388), or the “SELF DRIVE Act,” regulating evolving autonomous vehicle development, American Shipper reports.
- The new bill would update the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to account for advances in technology and evolution of highly automated vehicles (HAVs).
- Legislators hope to maximize opportunities for research and development, and encourage economic opportunities that would enable the U.S to remain a global leader in automotive technology.
The SELF DRIVE Act, now known as the first piece of federal legislation geared toward accelerating the availability of self-driving cars, demands that automakers submit safety assessment reports to regulators.
The argument has been that the federal regulations have been slow to develop in catching up to the rapid pace of autonomous vehicle innovation. Rather, as The National Law Review reports, 22 states have either passed or adopted regulations via executive order to prepare for autonomous vehicles, leading to a "patchwork of legislation" that is insufficient for the scope and breadth of the auto industry's needs.
Given the very nature of the auto industry, both in how manufacturers aim to sell vehicles across state lines as well as vehicle owners likely to travel from state to state, manufacturers' desire to have a federal standard to bring greater certainty has likely helped provide support for the House committee. With statewide consistency in standards in place, assurance of manufacturing standards will follow, which will help aid in keeping the cost of R&D lower.
Reuters reports that the Act will permit automakers to obtain safety exemptions for no more than 25,000 vehicles in year one, after which the ceiling would be raised annually over the course of three years up to a new ceiling of 100,000 vehicles deployed. The exemption can only be obtained if the manufacturer can demonstrate that their vehicles — or individual systems or features — provide an overall safety level that is at least equal to the overall safety level of non-exempt vehicles.
Representative Greg Walden, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that passed the Act, said the committee aimed to allow the industry to safely innovate while still maintaining appropriate government oversight. Consumer watchdog groups shared their skepticism, claiming citizens are now vulnerable to untried technology. Even so, as The National Law Review writes, each manufacturer would have to submit a highly detailed cybersecurity plan to prevent cyber-attacks, as well as guidelines on the protection of the proprietary data that the vehicles will produce.