The Driverless Commute: Autonomous vehicle legislation revving its engine

Federal autonomous vehicle legislation is back on the table.

Over the past few months the Republican and Democratic staffs of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce committees have been holding meetings to hash out bits and pieces of what could, ultimately, form a comprehensive autonomous driving bill. Notably, the bipartisan-bicameral approach has focused, up to this point, on the issues where there is the most consensus: exemptions, testing and evaluation and the establishment of an automated vehicles advisory council. The bipartisan working groups released discussion drafts for each subsection. While exemptions and testing have always been part of the conversation, the Advisory Council, as least as it is presented in the working draft, is a new wrinkle.

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The Driverless Commute in WardsAuto: Biggest Roadblock to Autonomous Vehicles Isn’t Technology

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards need to be reworked or overhauled if autonomous vehicles are going to reach their full potential. Fortunately, federal regulators are adjusting the rules to accommodate autonomous vehicles within the existing legal framework.

To state the obvious: The future of autonomous vehicle regulation is fluid. At present, the federal government regulates the vehicle itself – its construction, composition and reliability – while state governments regulate driver competence.

However, the increased integration of autonomous-vehicle technology into the driving task itself has made distinguishing the driver from the vehicle difficult. As a result, there is overlap between state and federal law in addition to differences between states, leaving automotive companies without a clear standard.

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