House Has a New Plan to Pass Self-driving Bill in 2019
Frustrated with House Democrats’ inability to push through legislation on autonomous vehicle development and testing, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) believes the new Congress needs to reassess the situation and rally together behind a tweaked proposal Senate Republicans are still willing to back.
Dingell claimed Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who will chair the Energy & Commerce Committee when Democrats take control of the House, and Rep. Bob Latta, (R-OH), who currently heads the digital commerce subcommittee, have agreed the smartest plan is to build consensus in the Senate so both chambers can deliberate on the same bill — potentially getting something done in the process.
“We will not reintroduce it immediately in the House,” she told Automotive News following Thursday’s vote on a funding bill that was intended to stop the government shutdown. “We’re going to have to figure out the common ground.”
Unfortunately, common ground within Congress appears to be increasingly difficult to locate.
From Automotive News:
Last year, the House unanimously approved the SELF DRIVE Act. But a companion piece of legislation, the AV START Act, stalled in the Senate for 14 months after clearing the Commerce Committee. The bills attempted to set rules of the road for development and deployment of self-driving cars. They included language to preempt states from setting autonomous vehicle design, construction and performance standards during testing, as well as grant auto and tech companies tens of thousands of exemptions from existing motor vehicle safety standards.
The current rules for autonomous testing are, in our estimation, pretty lax already. But automakers may need more freedoms to escalate progress to a point where they can meet their promised AV targets. Many companies claim they’d be able to deliver self-driving cars for the commercial market by next year, with consumer models following a year or two later.
However, safety advocates complain the bills do not hold autonomous vehicles to equivalent levels of safety as current standards, which is technically true. They’ve managed to garner support from a subset of Senate Democrats that managed to block the bill from being approved and, with more Democrats going into Congress next year, there’s little chance of that changing.
“Unfortunately, the AV START Act put industry’s economic priorities above public safety. Next year we will start over to make sure a new bill addresses the concerns of consumers and includes minimum performance standards, adequate funding and effective authority for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” Joan Claybrook, former administrator of NHTSA and President Emeritus of Public Citizen, elaborated.
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