A vote is slated to take place Wednesday in the House of Representatives on the “Self Drive Act,” which will put in place national standards to oversee how autonomous vehicles will be governed in the U.S.
The act aims to replace a possible patchwork of state-by-state laws for the technology, which is being developed by companies including Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Uber, GM (NYSE: GM), Samsung, Mercedes Benz, Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) and AutoX.
The act's rules hope to make the U.S. the first country in the world to master rolling out self-driving technology to the public, legislators said.
The rush to bring those cars to market has lawmakers scrambling to put in place a regulatory framework that cuts across state lines and brings a uniform set of standards for safety, design and performance for autonomous vehicles.
The act would ban states from having their own laws on the construction, performance or design of self-driving cars, while also allowing a company to put up to 25,000 vehicles on the roads that have received exemptions from existing vehicle laws. That number of exempt vehicles jumps to 100,000 over a three-year timespan.
The section of the act that allows companies fielding the cars to qualify for safety exemptions has some consumer watchdogs crying foul, because they might allow car makers to skirt safety standards or guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The main concern is that it does away with the states’ ability to have any safety standards in place. All we’ve gotten is some loose guidance," John Simpson, spokesman for advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, told the East Bay Times."I’d like to see some national, enforceable safety standards. When you leave things up to companies they take the cheapest way forward and do not often enough have safety as a primary concern.”
Companies looking to qualify for those exemptions would need to provide data that shows any new autonomous driving feature is just as safe as its traditional counterpart, including a detailed analysis that lays out how a vehicle's new self-driving technology makes it as safe as a normal car.
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