The House Passed the First-Ever Autonomous Vehicles Bill, “SELF DRIVE Act” — Cruising Down the Road to the Senate
On September 6, 2017, the House took a major step toward enacting what could
become the first-ever federal law to regulate autonomous vehicles. The Safely
Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act or the
“SELF DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388), introduced earlier by the House on July 25, 2017,
and approved unanimously by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 27,
2017, was passed by voice vote immediately after the lawmakers came back from their
summer recess. This fast-tracking shows that this bill is uncontroversial and
bipartisan, which bodes well for autonomous vehicles and automakers and tech
As more fully described in our earlier article “Congress
Supports the Deployment of Autonomous Vehicles”, this bill intends to ease
the process for developing and deploying autonomous vehicles in numerous
aspects, including exempting automakers and tech companies from existing safety
standards to allow those companies to test autonomous vehicles on public roads
more extensively, and providing federal laws preemption over a patchwork of state
laws and regulations concerning autonomous vehicles.
Industry groups see this passed bill as a victory for the automakers and
tech companies involved in the development and deployment of autonomous
vehicles. However, it still remains unseen, and automakers and tech companies are
advised to closely monitor, how the bill will turn into actual regulations
and/or standards affecting the industry. The U.S. Department of
Transportation (or the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration) will be required to develop a new set of safety regulations
and/or standards once the bill is finally enacted into law. Before autonomous
vehicles are released on public roads for testing and deployment, automakers and
tech companies must comply with those regulations and/or standards.
The bill now heads over to the Senate, which is also expected to release
its own version of an autonomous vehicles bill in the near future.
We will continue to monitor the legislative activities of federal and
state government that concern autonomous vehicles and address potential effects
of government activities through the next series of articles on this topic.