Governors, state legislatures concerned about AV START Act language
- In a letter signed by the National Governors Association, National Associations, National Conference of Legislatures, National League of Cities and others told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that the AV START Act language should be modified and clarified to ensure safe innovation.
- The letter writers were particularly concerned with the use of the word "performance" in the act: "We believe the application of the term “performance” to the autonomous context is now more complex due to the increasing merger of the vehicle and the operator."
- The letter is unlikely to halt business innovation in the autonomous vehicle space, but the significance of the letter is local and state authorities' abdication of authority in the autonomous vehicle arena.
Local and state authorities want the federal government to be in control of regulating autonomous vehicles, and while this may come as a surprise to some, that stance has some implications for the future of autonomous vehicles.
First, going forward, standards for innovation in the space should be fairly straightforward, since businesses won't have to navigate a combination of federal, state and local laws.
Second, the letter does recognize that when autonomous vehicles hit the road that federal and state authorities will need to work together to ensure traffic safety, and support the act's requirement for innovators to submit detailed reports on the safety of their autonomous vehicles. That support is based in fear that the current safety standards for autonomous vehicle innovation may not be enough.
The letter also simmers with apprehension regarding the acceleration of innovation in the space, remarking that the Department of Transportation "has not been able to match the rapid pace" of autonomous vehicles. The letter writers seem to consider the new tech as a boon to the industry, but also appear conflicted and hesitant about how it will be implemented. Furthermore, their abdication of authority in favor of federal regulation indicates fear of the risks involved with the new tech, or else an unwillingness to deal with it.
All these concerns come to a head with the letter's primary request — that the senate committee tweak the act's language. State and local governments want the feds to handle autonomous vehicles, and that's why they want the language of the act clarified: "The AV START Act would benefit from further defining the term “performance” to exclude the act of complying with traffic laws, thereby firmly associating it with the current federal responsibilities."
- National Governors Association Letter concerning AV START Act
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