Legislation Would Alter Federal Role in Autonomous Vehicle Regulation

Lawmakers on key House and Senate committees are working on legislation that would create new federal standards for self-driving cars, replacing the current state-by-state patchwork of rules.

The House Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday about a package of 14 draft bills that would scale back barriers to testing and development of autonomous vehicles, overhauling current federal rules on industry regulations.

The package includes several measures that would alter the current safety standards enforced by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The LEAD’R Act — Let NHTSA Enforce Automated Vehicle Driving Regulations — would give the NHTSA sole authority “over the regulation of highly automated vehicles.” The bill would preempt any related state laws that prevent the testing or development of autonomous vehicles, but would not prohibit states from regulating registrations, licensing, insurance, traffic laws or training.

The Practical Automated Vehicle Exemptions Act would increase the number of vehicles exempted from current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards from 2,500 to 100,000 to speed up autonomous vehicle development. Many of the other proposed bills would extend FMVSS exemptions for automakers and allow for the testing of vehicles not in compliance with safety standards, including autonomous vehicles that do not contain steering wheels or pedals.

“These discussion drafts are a significant step towards introduction of meaningful legislation that will ensure consumer safety and provide clarity for federal and state governments on their role in regulating self-driving vehicles,” Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), subcommittee chairman, said in a statement.

Over in the Senate, three members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have also been exploring legislation that would alter the federal government’s role in regulating autonomous vehicles.

Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Transportation Committee Chair John Thune (R-S.D.) earlier this month released principles for developing autonomous vehicle legislation.

The senators said they aim “to direct strong federal leadership that ensures safe self-driving vehicles on the road and reduces regulatory conflicts to the safe and rapid testing and deployment of this transformative technology.”

They outlined six prioritizes for finalized legislation: safety, continuing innovation and reducing existing roadblocks, remaining tech neutral, reinforcing separate state and federal roles regarding vehicles and drivers, strengthening cybersecurity of vehicles, and educating the public.

Though the senators’ work to craft finalized legislation from their initial framework is ongoing, some outside industry groups had early praise for their focus.

“To help automakers and tech companies achieve their goals of having self-driving cars on the road as early as 2020, the senators’ principles provide a modern, flexible and thoughtful plan for Congress to address important policy issues,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Peters said in an emailed statement that “the senators’ legislation will be a comprehensive bill that will address the issues laid out in the principles they announced.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the NHTSA’s name.


Tech Brief: White House Supports FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

The White House weighed in on the net neutrality debate, with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issuing a statement in support of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back rules instituted by the 2015 Open Internet Order. President Donald Trump stopped short of filing comments with the FCC on the matter, but Sanders said that the issue should be resolved through congressional legislation.

Tech Brief: Internet Association Asks FCC to Keep Net Neutrality

The Internet Association, a group that represents major tech companies including Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc., is officially calling on the Federal Communications Commission to keep net neutrality rules in place. In comments filed with the agency, the Internet Association noted that a net neutrality repeal could cause damage to the markets and limit innovation.

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

President Donald Trump defended his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., after it was revealed that in June 2016 he met with a Russian lawyer who has ties to the Kremlin. The meeting came after he was led to believe the lawyer would provide damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that the information was part of the Russian government’s effort to assist his father’s presidential campaign. The meeting included a Russian-American lawyer who’s a former Russian intelligence officer

Tech Brief: House Bill Requires Pentagon to Report Russian Hacking

House lawmakers voted to advance an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Pentagon to report attempts by Russian hackers to break into its network. The amendment was approved by the full House, and comes amid heightened concerns regarding Kremlin-backed cyberattacks and hacks that have targeted the United States and its allies across the world.

Load More