Self-Driving Vehicle Legislation Speeding Through Congress; Coverage of Trucks at Issue

September 15, 2017

Congress is beginning to look at the issue of the impact of artificial intelligence on work as the House passed by voice vote a bill that would establish a federal regulatory framework for automated vehicles and the Senate held a generally positive hearing on the same.  The SELF DRIVE Act (H.R. 3388) would prohibit state and local governments from establishing regulations on the performance, construction, or design of highly autonomous vehicles.  Thus far, lawmakers have been supportive of the new technology and the bill, which is the product of extensive work between both Democrats and Republicans.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said in the hearing, "Automated vehicle technology holds great promise to transform transportation in this country—expanding mobility, reducing traffic congestion and related emissions, and increasing productivity, among other benefits.  But the most exciting aspect of this transformative advancement is the potential to save thousands of lives every year on our nation's roadways."  The legislation marks Congress' first major effort to establish a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence technology.  Bowing to pressure from organized labor, the House-passed bill specifically excluded trucks from the bill’s preemption language creating uniform state driving laws.  The Senate hearing revealed that some lawmakers are troubled by that exclusion, and the committee may go in a different direction with its bill.  Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao unveiled a policy this week that clarifies automakers do not have to submit safety plans before testing technology.