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Congress Fails to Enact Autonomous Vehicles Bill


Not too long ago, it seemed like the reality of autonomous vehicles was getting closer and closer by the day. It appeared as though Americans would have access to these driverless cars within several years’ time.

It could still happen, but the federal government is taking its time passing law regarding autonomous vehicles. It was hopeful that the 115th Congress would pass the AV Start Act, but it didn’t happen. This bipartisan bill would have been the United States’ first federal legislation related to autonomous vehicles.

Introduced in 2017, the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act, or AV Start Act, would have established safety guidelines for autonomous vehicles. It would have prevented individual states from making their own laws relating to these cars and provided guidelines for testing and evaluation. These vehicles would also be given safety exemptions under the bill.

The Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce would have been involved in the bill. The Department of Transportation would have been tasked with establishing committees and groups to further education and safety efforts. The Department of Commerce would focus on cybersecurity and transportation concerns.

State Regulation Of Autonomous Vehicles

Without a federal bill regulating autonomous vehicles, the states are forced to develop a patchwork of laws which are inconsistent with and/or conflict with one another.

No federal law regulating autonomous vehicles means that the burden falls to the states to adopt their own regulations. In fact, 29 states currently have some sort of autonomous vehicle legislation in place, with the laws varying widely. California has adopted one of the most comprehensive set of regulations for autonomous vehicles.

For example, some states have passed laws relating to driver-assistive truck platooning technology. This technology allows trucks to move together as a unit, reducing air resistance and fuel costs. In Arizona, autonomous vehicles called Nuro cars are allowed to transport groceries from the store to a residence at low speeds. Zoox taxis, robot taxis, have already been tested on San Francisco streets and are set to launch in multiple U.S. cities in 2020.

Moving Forward

It’s clear that driverless cars and technology will continue to evolve, and there will need to be consistent regulations in place throughout the country. Many issues will need to be addressed, such as safety, speed limits, security/hacking risks, and more. Until a federal bill is passed, states will be forced to adopt, implement and enforce their own driverless vehicle technology regulations.

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