U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approves bill on self-driving cars



On Oct. 4, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill to help get self-driving cars on the road.

While the bill still has to clear a Senate vote, it appears to be on the road to passage.

Via Reuters, John Thune, the Republican who chairs the Commerce Committee, says, the bill “underscores the bipartisan desire to move ahead with self-driving vehicle technology.... The safety and economic benefits of self-driving vehicles are too critical to delay.”

The bill prevents states from imposing regulatory road blocks. Also, states would not be able to set rules on performance standards, but they would be able to set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspections.

Under the bill, if automakers can demonstrate that their self-driving vehicles are as safe as current vehicles, they will be allowed to sell 15,000 of those vehicles in the first year, and up to 80,000 after three years.

The bill also gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) several oversight responsibilities.

Within a decade, NHTSA must write permanent rules on self-driving cars.

NHTSA will also have the authority to “exempt vehicles from federal safety requirements.” Within six months of getting a request, the agency would have to make a determination.

While the bill is a victory for self-driving cars, it will not have any impact on getting self-driving commercial trucks on the road any quicker.

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa says the “safe development of advanced heavy trucking technology must encapsulate the life-and-death issues that are specific to that industry, not consider such consequences as an inconvenient after-thought.”

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