What’s next with AV policy?

U.S. Senate committee addresses data access and cybersecurity.

Recent congresses have not been known for bipartisan initiatives. Unique to this analysis has been this fall’s autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a package of 14 separate bills, titled the SELF DRIVE Act (H.R. 3388), by a vote of 54-0.

House leaders quickly moved the bill, under a suspension of the rules, to the House floor where it passed, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and Republicans in a voice vote.

“Self-driving cars hold the promise of making America’s roads safer, creating new economic opportunities and helping seniors and those with disabilities live more independently,” said Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. “The SELF DRIVE Act strikes the critical balance of enhancing consumer safety while promoting the continued development of this cutting-edge technology.”

Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta, R-Ohio, added, “This bipartisan bill paves the way for advanced collision avoidance systems and self-driving cars nationwide and ensures America stays a global leader in innovation.”

The Automotive Service Association’s (ASA) Mechanical (MOC) and Collision (COC) operations committees held two separate Washington, D.C., Fly-Ins to discuss connected car policy with both Capitol Hill policymakers and the new administration. The MOC met with congressional offices and discussed specific interests related to vehicle data access and cybersecurity.

If approved, the House SELF DRIVE Act would:

Improve NHTSA’s access to safety data for future updates and development of safety standards and require the submission of safety assessment certification by manufacturers of self-driving cars
Clarify state and federal roles with respect to self-driving cars

– States will continue to control vehicle registration, licensing, driving education and training, insurance, law enforcement, crash investigations, safety and emissions inspections, congestion management of vehicles on their streets and traffic laws and regulations.

– NHTSA will continue to be the agency responsible for regulating the safety of the design, construction and performance of self-driving cars to avoid requirements that would prohibit or limit interstate commerce and travel.
Include protections for cybersecurity, privacy and consumer education.

After the SELF DRIVE Act passed the House, the U.S. Senate took up their version of AV legislation. The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee approved Senate Bill 1885, The American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, by a voice vote.

The Committee noted that the bill advances efforts to improve roadway safety through the deployment of self-driving vehicles. To read the full text of the AV START Act, go to http://tinyurl.com/avstart.

ASA’s COC met with numerous Committee members to discuss the possibility of a federal advisory committee addressing vehicle data access and cybersecurity issues. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., offered an amendment, during the AV START Act markup, establishing an advisory committee at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Highly Automated Vehicle (HAV) Data Access Advisory Committee. The amendment stated:

“No department or administrative agency of the federal government may promulgate any regulation with respect to the ownership of, control of or access to, information or data stored by, or generated by, a highly automated vehicle or automated driving system before the report required under section (d)(4) is submitted to Congress.

The Committee accepted the amendment. To read the Inhofe amendment, go to: http://tinyurl.com/inhofeamend/.Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the committee chairman and lead Republican sponsor of the AV START Act, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the lead Democrat sponsor of the bill, issued the following statements on committee passage of S.B.1885:

“Today’s vote underscores the bipartisan desire to move ahead with self-driving vehicle technology,” said Thune. “Senator Peters and the members of the Commerce Committee deserve credit for working together to move this bill forward toward Senate floor consideration and collaboration with our colleagues in the House of Representatives. The safety and economic benefits of self-driving vehicles are too critical to delay.”

“Self-driving vehicles will make transformative changes to improve mobility, reduce accidents and enhance safety for millions of travelers on our roads,” said Peters. “I appreciate the hard work of Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to craft this important legislation that will help advance these lifesaving, and life-changing, self-driving technologies and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of vehicle innovation.

What’s next? The Senate has not scheduled floor consideration of S.B. 1885, but it likely will occur in the first quarter of 2018. With little time left for Congress in 2017 and a heavy legislative agenda, tax reform and a Dec. 8, 2017, deadline to fund the federal government for this fiscal year, it is unlikely the bill will be addressed prior to a congressional recess for the holidays. The Inhofe language could be contentious during the conference discussions. ASA has made retaining the Inhofe language a legislative priority.

Thune has scheduled a field hearing, titled “Driving Automotive Innovation and Federal Policies,” for Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The field hearing will examine self-driving and other automotive technologies, as well as cover issues on the horizon for lawmakers and regulators.

U.S. Congressman Buddy Carter, R-Ga., has been working with ASA and other stakeholders to ensure that the final AV legislation addresses the concerns highlighted in the Inhofe amendment. Important to these stakeholders is that both NHTSA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognize that the vehicle aftermarket must be part of the discussion relative to vehicle data access and related cybersecurity issues.

Some policymakers have indicated that these two AV bills are just the first step in the connected-car legislative and regulatory-policy processes. Some members indicate that additional legislation addressing more specific issues will follow. It’s important that independent repairers be part of the policy discussion, both on Capitol Hill and with the administration. To learn more about the AV bills and related issues, go to ASA’s legislative website TakingTheHill.com.

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