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H.R. 3388 (115th): SELF DRIVE Act

Self-driving cars are the future. A bill that just passed the House is being hailed as "first-of-its-kind" legislation to encourage the development of --- and provide a light regulatory framework for --- this burgeoning new technology.

What the bill does

The SELF DRIVE Act would:

The bill, numbered H.R. 3388, was introduced in July by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH5), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection.

The acronym is short for the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act.

Context

About 1 million vehicles with self-driving features are already on the road, with an estimated 10 million by 2020. Everyone from Ford to Tesla to Google to Apple are developing their own such cars, which could revolutionize travel and dramatically decrease fatalities.

Last year, approximately 40,200 people died in America due to auto accidents, the highest level in a decade. An estimated 94 percent of auto accidents are caused by human error.

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill would provide a much-needed consistent federal framework to smooth out the disparate state laws, which can hamper innovation from the national companies leading development and which hope to sell in all 50 states.

"Self-driving cars have the potential to reduce traffic accidents and deaths, increase mobility, and improve quality-of-life," Latta said in a press release. "The legislation passed by committee was the result of a bipartisan effort, which involved over 250 meetings with interested stakeholders in 2017 alone.

"Congress can't get caught flat-footed on this new technology," Latta continued, "and this bill ensures that a definitive framework is in place as industry develops, tests, and deploys autonomous vehicles."

What opponents say

Although no legislator from either party voted against the bill in the House, some consumer and advocacy groups have expressed anxiety about the legislation over safety concerns.

"The SELF-DRIVE Act would leave a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers. The bill pre-empts any state safety standards, but there are none at the national level," Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson said in a press release.
"Pre-empting the states' ability to fill the void left by federal inaction leaves us at the mercy of manufacturers as they use our public highways as their private laboratories however they wish with no safety protections at all," Simpson added.

Votes and odds of passage

The bill first attracted a bipartisan mix of 31 cosponsors: 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

It passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a unanimous 54--0 vote in September. The next day, it passed the whole House on a voice vote, meaning no records of individual votes were cast as there was no significant opposition.

It now awaits a vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Last updated Oct 18, 2017. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Sep 6, 2017.


Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act or the SELF DRIVE Act

This bill establishes the federal role in ensuring the safety of highly automated vehicles by encouraging the testing and deployment of such vehicles. A "highly automated vehicle" is a motor vehicle, other than a commercial motor vehicle, that is equipped with an automated driving system capable of performing the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis.

The bill preempts states from enacting laws regarding the design, construction, or performance of highly automated vehicles or automated driving systems unless such laws enact standards identical to federal standards.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) must require safety assessment certifications for the development of a highly automated vehicle or an automated driving system.

Manufacturers of highly automated vehicles must develop written cybersecurity and privacy plans for such vehicles prior to offering them for sale.

The bill applies certain safety exemptions and testing standards to highly automated vehicles.

DOT must: (1) inform prospective buyers of highly automated vehicles of the capabilities and limitations of such vehicles; (2) establish the Highly Automated Vehicle Advisory Council to, among other things, develop guidance regarding mobility access for the disabled, elderly, and underserved populations; (3) require all new passenger motor vehicles less than 10,000 pounds to be equipped with a rear seat occupant alert system; and (4) research updated safety standards for motor vehicle headlamps.