Surprisingly, it will also allow manufacturers to skirt federal vehicle safety standards.
On one hand, it’s encouraging to see the government embracing self-driving vehicles. On the other hand, there are real concerns that this is a step too far.
One Size Fits All Statute
The House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection voted in favor of draft legislation that will prevent individual states setting their own laws regarding autonomous vehicles.
This is intended to streamline the process and prevent each State presenting their own regulations that would make life more difficult for the manufacturers that have a big enough task on their hands.
It will also remove a number of safety standards that currently stand in autonomous vehicles’ way, as they were originally written with a human driver in mind and simply don’t fit an autonomous car.
The new rules would allow the manufacturers to produce up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without any controls for a human driver.
Government Trusts Manufacturers
Essentially, the manufacturers will be able to self-certify their vehicles in terms of safety and they will not have to submit their advanced technologies for inspection.
Missy Cummings, who is in charge of Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Laboratory, believes that these changes have gone too far.
“Companies are pouring significant money into lobbying efforts for both sides, so I think you are seeing this influence in how quickly these bills are being pushed through. I am concerned that they do not do enough for safety,” Missy Cummings.
The changes have to be ratified by the US House of Representatives, but they include the option to make the disclosure of accident data to Federal investigators voluntary. If these rules get the green light, they could be in place for five years.
Self-Driving Cars Are Safer
The industry has proven that autonomous cars are safer than a human driver and the NHTSA recently endorsed Elon Musk’s view that Tesla’s Autopilot has reduced accidents by more than 40%.
Fatalities are on the rise on American roads, with 35,092 deaths in 2015. That was a 7.2% increase on the previous year and that represents the highest annual rise since 1966.
In many ways, then, it’s a positive step that the government is looking for the quickest route to get self-driving cars on the road.
So, while some people feel the new rules are too lax, anything that reduces the accident rate and allows the next wave of technology to actually run free will almost certainly turn out to be a positive step.
Regs Set For Further Review
Republican Robert Latta heads up the Energy and Commerce Committee and he is set to review any changes before the full committee votes next week. The US House of Representatives will then potentially rubber stamp the bill in September.
This legislation was set in motion by the Obama administration, which released a 15-point list of safety requirements that would simplify the certification process for self-driving cars. It also recommended that the Federal government take charge of electric cars, and any potential investigations into accidents.
Under the draft legislation, local government would be restricted to safety checks that vary from state to state, licensing and insurance issues.