The Senate released bipartisan legislation on Thursday specifically aimed at providing federal laws to guide the autonomous vehicle industry.

Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today introduced the bipartisan American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act.

The bill will help advance the testing and development of self-driving vehicles that have the potential to improve mobility, reduce accidents, save thousands of lives lost on American roads each year, and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of advanced technologies and innovation.

“This legislation proposes common sense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology,” said Senator Thune. “By playing a constructive role in the development of self-driving transportation systems, our government can help save lives, improve mobility for all Americans – including those with disabilities, and create new jobs by making us leaders in this important technology.

“Self-driving vehicles will completely revolutionize the way we get around in the future, and it is vital that public policy keep pace with these rapidly developing lifesaving technologies that will be on our roads in a matter of years,” said Senator Peters.

Highlights of the AV START Act:

Provides Enhanced Safety Oversight – Requires manufacturers to submit safety evaluation reports to the Secretary of Transportation with information addressing important factors including safety, crashworthiness, and cybersecurity through documented testing, validation, and assessment. Such reports must be submitted prior to the testing or deployment of a self-driving vehicle.

Reinforces Federal, State, and Local Roles – Utilizing bipartisan provisions from the SELF-DRIVE Act (H.R. 3388), which passed the House of Representatives without objection, ensures the Department of Transportation’s continued responsibility for automated vehicle design, construction, and performance while maintaining state and local roles in determining traffic laws, registration, and licensing.  Directs additional research and coordination with state and local governments on traffic safety and law enforcement challenges. Creates specific requirements for manufacturers to ensure that all self-driving vehicles account for state and local traffic laws.

Reduces Barriers to Deployment – Expands the Secretary’s existing discretionary authority to implement an enhanced review and approval process for federal motor vehicle safety standards to prioritize safety for up to 100,000 vehicles per manufacturer three years after enactment.

Maintains Status Quo for Trucks and Buses – Clarifies that new authorities for self-driving technologies in the AV START Act apply to vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. Maintains existing Department of Transportation authority for advancing automated truck and bus technology in the future. 

Brings Existing Rules up to Speed – Directs the Department of Transportation to act quickly to modernize existing federal motor vehicle safety standards, which were written before self-driving vehicles were envisioned.

Strengthens Cybersecurity – Directs the Secretary of Transportation to work with manufacturers to adopt policies related to coordination around and disclosure of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities.  Requires manufacturers to develop and execute a comprehensive written plan for identifying and reducing cybersecurity risks to self-driving vehicles.

Improves Vehicle Safety and Data Sharing – Establishes a committee of experts to identify and develop recommended standards, including for data recording and data access and sharing. Headed by the Secretary of Transportation, the committee will serve as a forum for stakeholders to make recommendations for these and other standards governing self-driving vehicles.

Promotes Consumer Education – Advances guidelines on responsible consumer education and marketing, including on the capabilities and limitations of advanced driver assistance systems and self-driving vehicles, through the establishment of a dedicated working group.

Americans with Disabilities – Improves mobility for Americans with disabilities by preventing the denial of a license to operate a self-driving vehicle on the basis of a disability. Develops best practices regarding self-driving vehicle accessibility.

Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are original cosponsors. The Commerce Committee will consider the legislation at a legislative markup on October 4.

 

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