Legislation Could Result in Self-Driving Cars Being Deployed by 2020
Two days ago, the U.S. house gave its unanimous approval to a proposal that intends to accelerate deploying self-driving cars by barring state legislation that bans them entirely. In addition, this legislation would allow automobile manufacturers to obtain exemptions that would let them “deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year,” according to Reuters, a number that would rise to 100,000 vehicles per year over the course of three years.
While manufacturers seeking such an exemption have to demonstrate that self-driving cars are “at least as safe as existing vehicles” and states could still set some standards on how to regulate them, some consumer groups are worried that the legislation was not sufficient enough to ensure that driverless vehicles are safe. Even though automakers would be forced to submit safety assessment reports to regulators, they still would not be required to receive pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies.
A variety of both car manufacturers and technology companies seek to begin deploying self-driving vehicles around 2020, having lobbied for federal approval for quite some time. A point of contention is on how self-driving trucks will be handled, as they are not included in the House measure, which will now go to the Senate, where the provisions preempting state rules may be modified.
Although proponents of self-driving cars assert that such technologies could reduce road deaths and car crashes, consumer advocates such as the Consumer Watchdog group are worried. The group released a statement saying that the bill “leaves a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers” by evading state safety standards despite little federal regulation.
Policy group Transportation for America had similar concerns, stating that this “legislation will preempt local authorities from managing their own streets and fail to give local leaders the confidence that manufacturers and operators will be aware of and follow local laws and regulations.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil “revised self-driving guidelines” next Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
While deploying self-driving cars could bring with itself many advantages, consumer confidence in the safety of the technology will undoubtedly be key in bringing about adoption. Lawmakers will play a crucial part in this, as their regulation will certainly shape public perception of what currently seems to be the next step for the automobile industry.