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House Bill Would Give Self-Driving Car Makers Very Loose Leash for Testing

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GM’s self-driving Chevy Bolt
Photo: Digital Trends

Self-driving carmakers have for some time been asking the federal government to release a set of guidelines on self-driving car regulation for the states to follow, in order to speed up testing and development.

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However, it seems that the House of Representatives is doing them one better, as a bill which was approved by a House panel would allow carmakers and other companies to deploy self-driving fleets of up to 100,000 vehicles.

Interestingly, the bill also doesn’t require the self-driving vehicles to meet current safety standards, and forbids states from making their own self-driving vehicle rules.

That is certainly good news for autonomous automakers, which have primarily been testing in California, but with smaller programs in states like Michigan, New York, Nevada, and others. This bill is also good for them because it would make sure that autonomous rules don’t change from state to state. If passed, this bill would greatly speed development and testing of self-driving vehicles.

Of course, safety is a concern, and automakers would be required to show that their self-driving vehicles “function as intended and contain fail safe features” in order to get that exception from meeting safety features, but the Transportation Department would not be allowed to “condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications.”

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Basically, that would let self-driving carmakers choose what technology to test, but in order to not meet safety regulations (which include a driver, steering wheel, mirrors, and various other safety features), automakers would have to prove that they can do so safely, and have a built-in plan for if something goes wrong.

States would be able to make some rules, of course, related to registration, licensing, liability, insurance, and safety inspections. Either way, the bill will go in front of the full House of Representatives in September.

News Sources: Green Car Reports, Reuters