The U.S. House on Wednesday, September 6 unanimously approved a broad measure meant to increase innovation and research into autonomous vehicles. The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act, known in a more brief form as the SELF DRIVE Act, would enact a number of changes to the way the federal government approaches driverless cars.
HR 3388 was initially known as the Designating Each Car’s Automation Level Act, or the DECAL Act, and the bill includes a wide range of provisions. The most notable action this bill would take would be to increase manufacturer safety exemptions for the number of self-driving vehicles that can be deployed for testing, from 2,500 to 25,000 for the first year, 50,000 for the year after that, and 100,000 vehicles per year for the third and subsequent years of production.
In addition, the bill would clarify that states cannot write or enforce any law related to the development or performance of self-driving vehicles that differs from the rules established by the law. It would instruct the Secretary of Transportation to issue a new rule regarding safety certifications and to update that rule, as well as to review and update federal standards for self-driving vehicle safety.
The bill states that a carmaker will not be allowed to sell or otherwise distribute self-driving vehicles in the U.S. unless that company comes up with a cybersecurity plan and a privacy plan. The law also provides for a framework for informing potential buyers of the limitations and abilities of a self-driving vehicle, as well as providing for an automated vehicle advisory council to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) composed of researchers, business, safety and consumer advocates, and others.
The law also includes a couple of automotive provisions not related to self-driving vehicles. It mandates that new passenger cars be equipped with a warning system to remind the driver to check the backseats after turning the car off, and includes provisions for improving headlight performance.
Now that this bill has cleared the House, it will go on to the U.S. Senate. The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, is expected to issue new federal guidelines for self-driving cars on or around September 12. Previous federal guidelines were issued in January 2016.
The full text of the bill may be found here.