House Panel Clears Self-Driving-Car Bill
The Wall Street Journal.
Jul 27, 2017
A U.S. House panel approved legislation regarding self-driving cars, a significant step aimed at clarifying the rules of the road for manufacturers developing vehicles that pilot themselves.
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee cleared the bill, which would bar states from setting driverless-car rules that conflict with federal standards, on a 54-0 vote Thursday morning. Auto makers have been concerned about a patchwork of state-by-state driverless-car regulations.
The legislation would require companies to submit safety-assessment certifications to U.S. regulators—a practice already urged in automated-vehicle policy, but that lacks legal force—and then prevent the federal government from halting the deployment or testing of automated vehicles while the assessment is reviewed.
The bill also eventually would allow exemptions from existing U.S. safety regulations to companies that deploy up to 100,000 vehicles each. The legislation would require a publicly searchable database of each exempted vehicle. The exemptions are intended to prevent delays in technological advancements that could improve vehicle safety.
U.S. officials spanning the Obama and Trump administrations have been attempting to balance safety concerns with rapid technological development among self-driving-car makers.
Driverless cars are expected to aid the elderly and disabled, ease congestion and pollution, and cut traffic fatalities, 94% of which are attributed to human error, according to government officials and industry experts. Current U.S. safety standards cover vehicles with human drivers, and the bill would require the transportation secretary to eventually present lawmakers with a plan for developing rules addressing self-driving cars.
Auto makers have been selling vehicles with semiautonomous features—including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control—and are racing to master cars and trucks that can operate without input from a driver.
The exemptions from existing U.S. safety standards in the bill would initially be capped at 25,000 vehicles for each company in the first year before climbing to 100,000 a piece over three years. Car makers would have to demonstrate their vehicles’ safety to receive the exemption.
The bill also requires that vehicles eventually have an alarm system alerting motorists to check rear seats when shutting down the engine, which is intended to reduce the number of children left unattended in cars.
While the bill would bar states from setting their own driverless-car rules, the states would still keep traditional powers to address matters such as licenses, safety and emissions inspections and crash investigations, under the legislation’s parameters. It also attempts to clarify that it doesn’t pre-empt state dealer-franchise laws.
The legislation still needs to clear the full House, with a vote expected as soon as September, and then be reconciled with any similar Senate bill before heading to President Donald Trump’s desk, which could take a number of months.
How do you feel about driverless vehicles? My one big questions is when there is an accident who's fault will it be? At this point the technology is based on "if " & "then" algorihms. At some point the algorithm will instruct to make the least fatal mistake - so again who is to blame?