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Critical Consumer and Safety Improvements To Self-Driving Cars, Bill Approved By U.S. Senate Committee With Bipartisan Support
Updated October 5, 2017 7:11 AM
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(WASHINGTON, DC) - Thursday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted to advance the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act (AV START Act, S. 1885), a bill that will establish policies and procedures for introducing autonomous vehicles (AVs) into the marketplace for decades to come.

Critical safety and consumer protection provisions championed by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) were added to the legislation during today's Committee mark-up.

Advocates thanks Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) and lead Democrat sponsor Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) for including several critical amendments that will advance safety and ensure consumer confidence in the technology as it is deployed. Several Committee members, including Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) offered amendments supported by Advocates that added new provisions or modified others in the bill.

Some of the significant improvements include:

  • A reduction in the number of exemptions from existing motor vehicle safety standards for auto manufacturers;
  • A requirement for the U.S. Department of Transportation to review and evaluate the safety performance of vehicles with exemptions before allowing even larger numbers on the road;
  • Making the safety evaluation reports submitted by all AV manufacturers mandatory and available for public review;
  • Requiring a federal rule for consumer information on the capabilities and limitations of the AV at the point of sale for consumers;
  • Cybersecurity safeguards; and,
  • A requirement that cars have alert systems to prevent children from unintentionally being left behind and dying of heatstroke.
Joan Claybrook, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Consumer Co-chair of Advocates responded to Thursday's action on the AV START Act: "The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has a long history of Members coming together and working in a bipartisan way to advance important highway and auto safety protections. Today (Thursday) is an excellent example of why that model still works and is an effective approach to reducing deaths and injuries on our streets and roads."

Advocates president Jackie Gillan stated: "Driverless cars have the potential to one day make meaningful and lasting reductions in deaths and injuries on our roadways. As we work toward that goal, it is critical for Congress to ensure that these vehicles are deployed in a safe, sensible, and transparent manner. The amendments approved today provide much-needed improvements. Nothing added to the bill will encumber the deployment of AVs, but will encourage safe development and introduction of driverless cars."

"Today's (Thursday) adoption of several pro-safety and pro-consumer enhancements to S. 1885 are a welcomed development for Advocates and the many consumer and safety groups that we are working with to improve the legislation. Protecting public safety should be the top priority and not protecting industry investments in this new technology. It is fair to say that the bill that is now moving to the full Senate can be known not only as the AV START Act but also as an AV SAFETY Act," said Cathy Chase, Advocates Vice President of Governmental Affairs.

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