Senate Autonomous Car Legislation Hits Speed Bump

NOVEMBER 5, 2017

The “American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act” (AV Start Act) (S. 1885) has stalled in the Senate after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the measure by voice vote in October.

Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) had previously voiced his hope that the bill would be passed before the end of the year, but several Senators have either placed a formal “hold” on the bill or otherwise indicated that they will offer floor amendments.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stated that they had placed a hold on the bill because of ongoing concerns regarding certain safety and privacy provisions, specifically they want to include an amendment that would allow a human driver to take control manually of the vehicle.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) indicated that he would like to reintroduce an amendment to the legislation to ensure that it covers heavy-duty trucks.

Currently, the bill covers cars and trucks that are lighter than 10,000 pounds and is intended to provide the framework to allow autonomous vehicle technology to be implemented in the U.S. and also contains preemption language to ensure that states do not enact an unworkable patchwork of inconsistent regulations.

The House previously passed its companion bill, “Designating Each Cars Automation Level Act” (The “DECAL Act”) (H.R. 3388), that allows automakers to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, and the cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years. States could set registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspection requirements, but they could not set autonomous car performance standards.

H.R. 3388 instructs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to complete research and analysis within three years that focuses on “best practices” for informing consumers about the abilities and limitations of autonomous vehicles.

Sen. Thune stated that he is hopeful to resolve the remaining issues and garner unanimous consent to bring the measure to the floor soon; however, if that does not occur he confirmed that he intends to find and attach the bill to “another fast-moving vehicle” to get it passed.