Sens. Thune and Peters want to ease self-driving regulations

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Regulations governing self-driving vehicles may get softer. Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) have announced a bipartisan effort to ease regulations in an effort to speed up innovation in self-driving technology.

In a joint statement, the two senators pledged to work with industry stakeholders as Congress seeks “solutions that enable the safe testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles and assure public confidence.”

Congress is juggling a balancing act between expediting self-driving technology for consumer consumption and making sure the industry is regulated for safety. Federal vehicle laws currently require some type of human operator. Senators Thune and Peters suggest this phrasing inhibits innovation.

One idea the senators are interested in is easing regulations that will allow more flexibility for the testing and development of self-driving cars while maintaining current regulations that affect more traditional vehicles.

In July 2016, consumer groups wrote a letter to President Obama urging his administration to stop attempts allowing autonomous vehicle technology on the roads in the wake of reports of a fatal crash involving Tesla’s autonomous system. Two months later, the U.S. Department of Transportation introduced its automated vehicles policy. Thune and Peters want to start a discussion on that policy, which some see as not enough and others view as too restricting.

Last November, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing exploring the issue of self-driving vehicles. Several stakeholders, including National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind, agreed that self-driving cars will save lives. However, there was no consistency on the meaning of the word “self-driving” nor was their consistency with the timeline regarding when truly self-driving vehicles will be commercially available.

Earlier this year, the USDOT established a federal committee on automation, which includes the General Motors CEO, a Stanford professor of engineering, an Uber executive, the mayor of Los Angeles and several other high-profile names. On Monday, Feb. 13, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asked Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to include small business truckers on the list.

Related articles:
OOIDA asks Chao to include truckers on automation committee
U.S. DOT creates federal committee on automation
Congressional hearing: Majority of vehicles can be self-driving in a few decades
U.S. DOT introduces automated vehicles policy
Consumer groups ask that autonomous technology slow down

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