Congress will soon renew efforts to pass legislation that clears the way for the deployment of tens of thousands of automated vehicles on roads across America.
House and Senate leaders are seeking input from a broad swath of stakeholders to help formulate a self-driving vehicle bill that addresses everything from access for people with disabilities to cybersecurity concerns.
A letter circulated by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said lawmakers are working on a "bipartisan and bicameral basis" to lay groundwork for a bill. Comments from stakeholders are due to the committees by Aug. 23. Once Congress reconvenes next month, transportation officials and policy analysts say that, despite broad polarization, they expect a "genuine" and "earnest" attempt to make the legislation a priority.
This marks the second attempt to enact legislation that would ostensibly seek to set forth a framework for the regulation of autonomous vehicles and affirm the federal government's role in establishing safety standards. Efforts to do so last year stalled in the Senate after a variety of concerns about that legislation emerged, costing the support of several Democrats.
"There's a real desire to move something successful here that does enable the long-term safe development and deployment of this technology," said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "I wouldn't read the failure at the end of the last Congress as an indication something can't get over the finish line."
Levine and others caution that it's too early to offer much insight on the fledgling efforts because few specifics have emerged. But they know the thorny issues that caused the AV START Act to stall in the Senate last December, and those are perhaps worthwhile starting points for negotiations.
"I think of it like a sporting match," said Greg Rogers, policy analyst at Securing America's Future Energy, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that advocates for policies that reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"All the industry players are on the field right now, and NHTSA is playing referee with an old rulebook. We're in a new season. It's five decades after this rulebook is written, and it's on Congress to reflect on and decide how this rulebook might change."