Today, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) reintroduced the SELF Drive Act. The bill, which was previously introduced and passed in the House in 2017, is intended to create national standards for the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The bill would require cybersecurity provisions for AV manufacturers, reorganize, rewrite or exempt certain federal motor vehicle safety standards, and pre-empt states from passing new AV safety laws. In a joint statement with Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), Latta reminded his colleagues that the United States remains in a fierce competition with China over primacy in the AV market. The legislators also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for AVs to support vulnerable populations.
Currently, the industry relies on a patchwork of state laws without federal testing and deployment standards and while most view a federal law as ultimately necessary, consumer advocacy groups—like the Center for Auto Safety—criticize the SELF Drive Act for lacking “regulatory or testing requirements to improve public confidence in the long-term safety of driverless vehicles.”
Originally, in 2017, the House of Representatives passed the SELF Drive Act with almost a dozen Democratic co-sponsors; however, the bill died in the Senate, due to Democratic concerns over consumer safety, data security and liability. The current bill has no Democratic co-sponsors and Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell, an advocate for the industry, stated that the bill will not be approved this year. She continues to believe that “urgent action” is needed, but suggested that the bill is already outdated. In response to Latta’s new push, Dingell said that she has a commitment from the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to prioritize a new bill next year.