US: Congress panel to consider self-driving car legislation


A subcommittee appointed by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress will vote on Wednesday regarding a proposal to allow car manufacturers to have up to 1,00,000 self-driving vehicles bypassing the existing safety laws. The legislation will also prevent states from implementing any rules regarding the technologies of the self-driving cars. 

This is said to be the first legislation that will help faster introduction of self-driving vehicles into the market. While it will require manufacturers to submit safety assessments to US regulators, it will not require an approval for new technologies to be used in self-driving cars before being introduced to the consumers. The draft revealed that manufacturers would need to demonstrate that the cars "function as intended and contain fail-safe features", and the transport department could not condition the launch or testing of such cars based on existing safety laws. The current safety laws (over 75) assume that a driver will be in control of a vehicle at all times. The draft also bars states from blocking the use of such vehicles for up to 1,00,000 vehicles per manufacturer. It also directs the transport department to introduce rules that alert the driver to check rear seats - in an effort to prevent cases of children being left behind as well as rules for performance of a car's headlamps.

The states could however set rules on other aspects like licensing, registration, liabilities, etc. for self-driving cars. Companies with semi-autonomous cars or those involved in their research have tried hard to lobby against the government to exempt various rules that are slowing down the introduction of self-driving cars in the market. With this legislature, testing and introduction of self-driven vehicles can happen all over the US rather than being limited to certain areas. Manufacturers have also said that unless there is a change in current regulations, further development of autonomous vehicles could shift to the Europe or other viable places. 

The draft of the bill is available here.

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