Here's What's Next For U.S. Regulation of Autonomous Cars

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Expect autonomous car testing and manufacturing to ramp up significantly across the country, as the House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday morning to put 100,000 autonomous and semi-autonomous test cars on public roads.

The legislation is called the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017. Currently, only 2,500 of these cars can drive among consumer cars.

The act also cans state laws on autonomous cars, like those in Michigan and California, and gives all regulatory power to the federal government.


The legislation will now move out of subcommittee and into the larger Energy and Commerce Committee for another round of markups, before being voted on the House floor in September. Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Rep. Bob Latta said he wants to get the bills to committee by next week, but Democrats urged him to keep it until after the August recess so they can keep working.


“This is fundamentally an issue of international competitiveness,” Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell said. “The question is whether the United States will remain in the drivers seat, as opposed to China, Japan or even the EU.”

Other highlights of the legislation include studying how autonomous cars impact the disabled, senior citizens and rural communities, as well as ensuring car companies have good cybersecurity practices in place.


The Senate, meanwhile, is gearing up for its introduction of autonomous car legislation, a 30-page package made up of 15 sections that closely aligns with the House bills, according to Greg Rogers, policy analyst at think tank Eno Center for Transportation.


The key difference between the House and Senate bills has to do with giving NHTSA sweeping power; the Senate requires automakers to apply for state motor vehicle standard immunity, whereas the House automatically negates state law for the overarching federal NTHSA standards.

Since the bills are moving along without a ton of partisanship clash, the legislation could leave Congress and hit the President’s desk by the year’s end. We’re only months away from passing one of the most influential laws for the auto industry to date.