US House Passes SELF DRIVE Act For Autonomous Car Testing

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This story about autonomous car legislation was first published on Gas2.

The House of Representatives has passed legislation entitled the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act — otherwise known to us plebeians as the SELF DRIVE act. What it does is permit car companies to test up to 100,000 autonomous cars on public roads all across America, even if they do not meet local and state safety standards.

Daimler Bosch autonomous car partnership

You constitutional scholars out there will recognize this as an example of the “preemption doctrine.” Once Congress has spoken, any state or local laws to the contrary are overridden and are of no further force and effect.

The SELF DRIVE act was strongly supported by a coalition of companies that are deeply engaged in designing self-driving cars — including Ford, Lyft, Uber, Volvo Group, and Waymo. Together, they have formed an industry lobbying group called Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.

Its general counsel, David Strickland, tells TechCrunch, “Self-driving vehicles offer an opportunity to significantly increase safety, improve transportation access for underserved communities, and transform how people, goods and services get from point A to B.

“The Coalition is grateful for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s bipartisan leadership on the SELF DRIVE Act, and we look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to enact autonomous vehicle legislation that enhances safety, creates new mobility opportunities, and facilitates innovation.”

The legislation passed the House with bipartisan support — an unusual occurrence in these tempestuous political times. The bill will now go to the  Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The companies are anxious to avoid a quagmire of confusing and often contradictory state and local laws and regulations while they try to figure out the complexities of the self-driving systems that will make autonomous cars possible. Under the new law, test cars will not be required to have steering wheels or pedals — something all state traffic laws require at the moment.

The framework created by the new law will require strict licensing and reporting provisions, but will give companies the freedom to prove their technology is safe before it gets hemmed in by a welter of technical regulations.

For the first time, manufacturers will be required to have an official plan that addresses cybersecurity threats in their autonomous vehicles, an issue that should be of concern to anyone who is aware of the steep rise in black hat hacking in all internet endeavors in the past few years.

In essence, any device connected to the internet can be hacked unless appropriate steps to prevent intrusion are taken. It may turn out that hacking of self-driving cars is a greater threat to safety than the self-driving systems that make autonomous cars possible in the first place.

Source: Engadget | Photo via Mercedes Benz

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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