SAFE-DRIVE ACT approved in Congress, Senate next to explore autonomous vehicles

House Passes Safe Drive Act

By: Zack Huhn; Chair, IEEE Smart Cities Standards Committee

"The House voted Wednesday to speed the introduction of self-driving cars by giving the federal government authority to exempt automakers from safety standards not applicable to the technology, and to permit deployment of up to 100,000 of the vehicles annually over the next several years."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 94% of crashes involve human error. Automakers and lawmakers on each side of the aisle are working together to expedite legislation that will allow autonomous vehicles on American roadways in an effort to save lives, grow economies, and transform our transportation systems. It is estimated that nearly all of the 40,000 traffic deaths annually could be avoided by implementing smart and autonomous mobility solutions, but not all parties are supporters of the effort or of the SAFE-DRIVE ACT.

Bullet Points:

  • The SAFE-DRIVE ACT was originally drafted and presented in July, and approved shortly after
  • The House voted on Wednesday, September 6th in favor of the legislation
  • The bill is not yet law and must still pass the Senate
    • "Members of the Senate Commerce committee are also working on self-driving car legislation, but a bill hasn't been introduced. If a measure passes the full Senate, the two versions would have to be reconciled before President Donald Trump could sign it into law."
  • The bill permits the deployment of up to 25,000 self-driving vehicles in its first year, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually in the third year
  • The bill doesn't apply to commercial vehicles, which were carved out after labor unions expressed concern that self-driving trucks would eliminate jobs

Supporters Say:

The measure "gives the auto industry the tools to revolutionize how we're going to get around for generations to come," said Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said the bill "is fundamentally an issue of American competitiveness" since foreign automakers are developing self-driving cars as well.

The bill addresses "a variety of barriers that otherwise block the ability to safely test and deploy these vehicle technologies," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement.

Others Say:

"Unfortunately, this legislation takes an unnecessary and unacceptable hands-off approach to hands-free driving," leaders of seven groups wrote lawmakers.

"Exposing motorists to the dangers of crashes without proven and needed protections is a wanton disregard for public health and safety."

"State and local officials have raised concern that it limits their ability to protect the safety of their citizens by giving to the federal government sole authority to regulate the vehicles' design and performance. States would still decide whether to permit self-driving cars on their roads. Generally, the federal government regulates the vehicle, while states regulate the driver." - J. Lowry


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