Autonomous Car Bill Passes House Unanimously

US House passes bill for self-driving cars

The action now moves to the Senate, where Republican John Thune of South Dakota and Democrats Bill Nelson of Florida and Gary Peters of MI are leading work on legislation of their own.

The bill paves the way for as many as 100,000 of the experimental cars to hit U.S. roads every year, according to commentators.

The newly passed bill is created to accelerate the timeframe for allowing self-driving vehicles to be on the roads for testing without humans behind the wheel. "Self-driving technology for trucks and other large vehicles has emerged as a pivotal issue in Congress' attempt to help usher in a new era of transportation", said Senator Thune.

Section 5 of the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution - SELF DRIVE - Act states [pdf] that no highly or partly automated vehicles can be sold in the U.S. without a detailed cyber security plan. This provision ensures that self-driving cars are developed with seniors and the underserved in mind. Back in July, the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the full chamber for a vote; that vote was held today.

The bill requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") to establish testing standards, including to determine when to use performance, as opposed to process and procedure, standards. "I am especially proud that my bill, the ACCESS Act, has been included in this important legislative package". Experts have said that self-driving cars will drastically reduce road fatalities, most of which are caused by human error. The issue has gained a sense of urgency after a rise of deadly crashes in recent years following a period of decline.

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Under the proposed legislation, American automakers will be able to ask the US Department of Transport for exemptions to safety standards, allowing them to get autonomous vehicles onto the streets for testing and deployment faster.

Companies including Waymo, GM, Ford Motor Co (F.N), Uber Technologies Inc UBER.UL, Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and others are aggressively pursuing automated vehicle technologies. Commercial vehicles are not included as part of the House bill.

Meanwhile, some consumer groups have sought additional safeguards.

In order to do so, it would have to demonstrate its control software and computer hardware is safe and secure enough to sidestep tough regulations that otherwise apply to vehicles.

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