U.S. House Passes Legislation to Expand Self-Driving Car Development

The House of Representatives this week unanimously passed H.R. 3388, the Self Drive Act of 2017, by voice vote.

The Self Drive Act is first-of-its-kind legislation to ensure the safe and innovative development, testing, and deployment of self-driving cars, according to its backers in Congress, who believe federal motor vehicle safety standards need to be updated to reflect cars without traditional design features.

The legislation passed this week improves the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s ability to adapt federal safety standards to this emerging technology, and clarifies federal and state roles with respect to self-driving cars, according to proponents.

“Self-driving cars hold the promise of making America’s roads safer, creating new economic opportunities, and helping seniors and those with disabilities live more independently. The SELF DRIVE Act strikes the critical balance of enhancing consumer safety while promoting the continued development of this cutting-edge technology,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH). “This bipartisan bill paves the way for advanced collision avoidance systems and self-driving cars nationwide, and ensures that America stays a global leader in innovation.”

The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, chaired by Rep. Latta, paved the way for making the Self Drive Act a bipartisan success, according to the committee. To date, the subcommittee has held three legislative hearings on the topic of self-driving cars with expert witnesses spanning government as well as tech, automobile, and consumer safety industries. Chairman Latta and the subcommittee unanimously advanced the draft legislation by voice vote.

The full Energy & Commerce Committee then passed the legislation with unanimous support at 54-0. The committee held over 250 meetings to develop this legislation with a wide range of stakeholders including manufacturers, suppliers, tech companies, insurance providers, state government officials, seniors groups, and disability advocates. Chairman Walden spoke to the bipartisan nature of the legislation.

“I truly believe the bipartisan bill-drafting process for self-driving legislation is an example of our committee at its best-working together to pursue the common goal of saving lives,” said Chairman Walden. “Our aim was to develop a regulatory structure that allows for industry to safely innovate with significant government oversight-as safety must be the chief priority. And I believe today’s legislation strikes that critical balance.”

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