Publisher's Statement - November 2017
AV START Act accelerates the deployment of autonomous vehicles
Twenty-first century technologies require twenty-first century regulations. Recently, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act S 1885). This bill will expedite the deployment of autonomous vehicles for testing.
Earlier, the House of Representatives passed the SELF DRIVE Act, the first major U.S. legislation establishing policies for regulating self-driving cars. The AV START Act (ASA) is a companion bill to the House bill with several important differences yet to be resolved. The bill is reportedly bi-partisan with a genuine chance of passing.
The Auto Care Association applauds the Senate Commerce Committee for including a vehicle data access and control amendment in the bill. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. James Imhofe (R-OK), requires that the Department of Transportation convene a federal advisory committee comprised of stakeholders to provide recommendations to Congress “with respect to the ownership of, control of, or access to, information or data that vehicles collect, generate, record, or store in an electronic form that is retrieved from a highly automated vehicle or automated driving system.”
“The inclusion of the data access and control amendment is an important step in the industry’s efforts to obtain direct access to data generated by embedded vehicle telematic system,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association.
Autonomous commercial vehicles were not included in the AV START Act. Imhofe also introduced, but later withdrew, an amendment to the bill that would have allowed for the testing and deployment of self-driving trucks.
The bill refers primarily to highly autonomous vehicles (HAV) or driverless cars. The main features include federal pre-emption of state laws and regulations involved in testing those HAVs, cyber-security, and Senate support for the SAE, five-level system for defining autonomous vehicles.
A key issue is the need to amend federal safety regulations to clear away any unintended obstacles for driverless vehicles such as regulations that require equipment or systems that are necessary for a human driver but are irrelevant for a self-driving car.
The bill also expands the exemptions to certain federal vehicle safety regulations. It expands the number of test vehicle exemptions. The act aims to hasten the deployment of HAVs by expanding National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) exemption authority. The AV START Act would authorize NHTSA to exempt up to 50,000 HAVs per manufacturer from safety standards during a one-year period following enactment. That cap will increase to 75,000 vehicles per manufacturer in the second year and to 100,000 for the third year. Those are big changes considering that each manufacturer is currently limited to 2,500 exemptions.
The AV START Act mirrors many of the provisions contained in the NHTSA’s guidance for autonomous vehicles and shares many similarities with the recently passed SELF DRIVE Act. HAV development and testing has significantly moved ahead.
Meanwhile, the aftermarket needs to convey the importance of access to critical telematic data for the independent aftermarket and its customers where ever possible. As Hanvey recently stated, “Auto Care believes that it is critical in ensuring competition in the vehicle repair market and that this data be controlled by car owners, not the vehicle manufacturers.”