Self-driving legislation unanimously advanced by U.S. House Subcommittee
Self-driving legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (SubDCCP), the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017, has unanimously advanced after the previously reported markup. The committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), cited safety as the primary focus for the legislation, noting that it’s necessary to establish safety parameters for the autonomous vehicle industry now as the industry moves forward.
The committee cited statistics that show more than 35,000 traffic fatalities occurred on U.S. roadways in 2015. If 2016 estimates are confirmed, it will mark the first time in almost a decade that more than 40,000 people have died in traffic accidents in a single year.
“Why is all of this important? One word: Safety,” said Latta of the Act. “We don’t have to accept a world where millions of accidents and thousands of fatalities on the roadway are a necessary evil of driving. In a nation of over 320 million, each year approximately 6 million Americans are involved in vehicular accidents, resulting in nearly 2 million injuries.”
This bipartisan legislation for the industry is the first of its kind federally and, in addition to increasing safety, is intended to encourage innovation, increase mobility, and boost research and development. This legislation has undergone 14 drafts and unanimously passed out of the subcommittee after a voice vote.
The legislation lays out a non-prescriptive framework for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update existing safety standards and write new ones. According to the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), part of that effort would require autonomous vehicle manufacturers to submit safety assessment certifications. She says that information will help inform NHTSA's future rulemaking and help build consumer confidence in the technologies.
“We have reached an agreement that NHTSA should have a clear process for granting exemptions and list exempted vehicles in a public searchable database,” said Schakowsky. “The draft also includes important safety improvements that go beyond autonomous vehicles.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) noted cybersecurity as one of the key issues facing the industry.
“Any manufacturer entering this market must have cybersecurity practices in place before their cars are sold. And because human drivers are going to be driving vehicles on our streets and highways for the foreseeable future, the bill before us also contains legislative initiatives geared toward protecting drivers and passengers,” said Pallone. “This bill also ensures NHTSA is able to consider whether a car functions as intended, not just whether it meets specific standards.”
Full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) concluded, “For Americans to enjoy the benefits that self-driving cars have to offer, we must develop an appropriate regulatory structure that safely allows industry to innovate. We want aggressive oversight of the industry, but with the flexibility needed to test and generate the safest and most affordable technologies possible. There is an important balance we must strike, and I believe this legislation does just that.”