Bipartisan Duo Eyeing Federal Legislation to Clear Hurdles for Autonomous Vehicles

Bipartisan Duo Eyeing Federal Legislation to Clear Hurdles for Autonomous Vehicles

Sens. Gary Peters and John Thune said they would like to introduce a bill sometime this year.

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and John Thune said they are exploring legislation that would pave the way for the development of self-driving vehicle technology.

Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, and Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, issued a joint statement asserting that “the slow pace of regulation could become a significant obstacle to the development of new and safer vehicle technology in the United States.”

“As we seek to identify areas where Congress should assist innovators in bringing this new technology to our roads, we will work closely with our colleagues, interested safety and mobility advocates, and other leaders in automated-vehicle technology to find solutions that enable the safe testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles and assure public confidence,” the senators said. “We both recognize that public policy must adapt to this new, rapidly changing technology to ensure the federal government maintains safety while leaving room for innovators to reach their full potential.”

Peters and Thune said they’d like to propose a joint bill in 2017, although they don’t have a specific timetable yet.

“We are particularly interested in ways to improve regulatory flexibility for testing and development of self-driving vehicles without changes to regulations that would affect conventional autos,” the senators said. “Our effort will also include a discussion on the existing patchwork of laws and regulations and the traditional roles of federal and state regulators.”

In March 2016, the Senate Commerce Committee, which has legislative jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation (DOT), held a hearing on automated-vehicle technology and organized a Senate exhibition of self-driving technology from Volkswagen, Tesla and other manufacturers.

In September 2016, DOT issued guidance for autonomous-vehicle development that included a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers. In early 2017, the agency announced that it has designated 10 pilot sites to encourage testing of autonomous-vehicle technology.

Peters, co-founder of the Senate Smart Transportation Caucus, introduced bipartisan legislation that was included in the 2015 highway bill, allowing states to invest federal dollars in complementary vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology. Thune is chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“More than any other automotive technology in history, self-driving vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the more than 35,000 lives lost on our roads and highways every year and fundamentally transform the way we get around,” the senators said. “Ensuring American innovators can safely develop and implement this technology will not only save lives but also solidify our nation’s position as the world leader in the future of mobility.”

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