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The House of Representatives Passed the Self-Drive Act: What’s Next?

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On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to push forward the testing of self-driving vehicles.

Nicknamed the Self-Drive Act, this bill is dedicated to giving automotive companies the ability to test their autonomous vehicles more freely. If this bill becomes a law, it could mean adding 100,000 autonomous vehicles to public streets each year. However, not all testing will occur on public streets; according to The Verge, companies seeking these exemptions must prove their technologies are at least as safe as a human-occupied vehicle.

Under this the Self-Drive Act, automotive manufacturers exploring autonomous technology are eligible for exemptions from federal and state regulations. For example, self-driving vehicles are built differently than traditional vehicles, often without key features like pedals or a steering wheel. Current safety testing restrictions are crafted to check the safety of human-occupied vehicles. By receiving these exemptions, companies will have more control over the proper methods of testing for their autonomous technologies.

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However, it is important to note that this is not set in stone just yet. The Senate has to pass the legislation before it can actually become a law. To make matters a bit more complicated, The Washington Post expressed its skepticism over the Senate’s ability to pass the bill, as they are tied up with more pressing issues at the moment.

Many critics have expressed concern about the introduction of autonomous vehicles in relation to the economy. While many argue that these vehicles will boost the economy, critics point to the trucking industry, which makes $724 billion every year. However, Senator John Thune explained that there is still a possibility for trucks to be excluded from the legislation. “Self-driving technology for trucks and other large vehicles has emerged as a pivotal issue in Congress’ attempt to help usher in a new era of transportation,” said Senator Thune.

Serving as chairman of the House Energy Commerce Committee, Oregon Representative Greg Walden¬†sees autonomous vehicles as providing an unprecedented increase in safety on our roadways. “While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can’t write a safety standard to make us all perfect drivers,” said Walden, “It can work to advance lifesaving technologies to avoid collisions, and that’s part of what this bipartisan legislation will put into place.”

As self-driving technologies, and other autonomous features, have come to the forefront of the automotive industry, hacking has become a huge concern. This bill also includes regulations on cyber security to prevent things like vehicle hacking from occurring.

Greg Rogers, policy analyst for the Eco Center for Transportation, told The Verge that the Senate is already in the process of drafting its own self-driving vehicle legislation. According to Rogers, this legislation strives to turn over the power to the cities and states so they can regulate, restrict, or reject self-driving vehicles within individual communities.

The next step in the process is the Senate’s vote. At this time, it is unclear when that vote will take place.

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Sources: The Washington Post (here and here), The Verge