The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a proposal to expedite the development of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology — a move that could put up to 100,000 such vehicles on the road annually, The Washington Post reported. The legislation doesn't apply to commercial vehicles such as trucks.
The bill gives the federal government the power to set most rules regarding the implementation of self-driving vehicles, although states can still decide whether to allow the technology. In exchange for exemptions from some safety requirements that don't pertain directly to CAV, automakers must submit safety assessments to regulators, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, a revised set of Obama-era guidelines concerning the operation of self-driving cars is expected from the Trump administration next week, Reuters reports. A bipartisan Senate group is also planning CAV legislation and its likely the two bills will come to a head. Critics of the legislative push to regulate CAV have cautioned that the rules could offer too easy a path through regulatory red tape.
The emerging CAV sector largely has been met with bipartisan support. So far, discussions around the technology have focused on its legality, according to The New York Times. That has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle working out proposals that try to appeal to the competing interests of municipalities, automakers and consumer safety advocates, among others, involved in the tech’s development.
Once formal rules are established, questions over CAV’s economics, as well as how the approvals process and subsequent commercialization will play out, are expected to be met with more debate. The new House bill represents the most extensive attempt yet to regulate the technology.
Setting consistent guidelines for how CAV can be used is a critical first step toward wider adoption, however, and it’s one that private automakers are already behind. Many say that a national regulatory framework will make it easier for them to test, develop and scale new technology. In the absence of such rules, states have stepped up with their own regulations.
The nonprofit National League of Cities has also offered up a guide to help cities plan for CAV. Its recommendations include monitoring policy progress, communicating with local companies that could help integrate the technology and with residents who want to use it, and ramping up computing capacity to handle the new load.
Although the House legislation focuses on self-driving consumer vehicles, many CAV advocates are exploring the technology’s potential in commercial vehicles. The ability to use such technology on vehicles like trucks to platoon or otherwise guide them to manage traffic and fuel consumption has strong potential, according to The Washington Post. Groups representing truck drivers have been critical of the latest House legislation due primarily to the possible replacement of jobs.