Self-Driving Vehicle Bill Wins Committee's Approval

"Chairman Thune and I have worked closely together for months to craft this bipartisan legislation, and today's introduction is a momentous step toward ensuring that Michigan and the United States continue to lead the world in automotive innovation that keeps our country economically competitive," said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, a bill introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and John Thune, R-S.D., on Oct. 4. The bill will help to accelerate testing and development of self-driving vehicles and ultimately save thousands of lives by preventing accidents, Peters promises.

"Self-driving vehicles will make transformative changes to improve mobility, reduce accidents, and enhance safety for millions of travelers on our roads," he said Oct. 4. "Michigan is poised to lead the world in these emerging vehicle innovations that will create new jobs and help ensure our nation remains internationally competitive. I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Thune to help pass this legislation through the Senate to advance these lifesaving and life-changing technologies and ensure that Michigan remains at the forefront of vehicle innovation."

The committee also took up S. 1872, the TSA Modernization Act from Thune and Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and five nominations, including Ann Marie Buerkle to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Howard R. Elliott to be administrator of DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Sens. Blunt and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are co-sponsors of the AV START Act.

Thune said the bill "proposes common-sense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology. By playing a constructive role in the development of self-driving transportation systems, our government can help save lives, improve mobility for all Americans – including those with disabilities, and create new jobs by making us leaders in this important technology. I'm proud of this bipartisan legislation but recognize there are still opportunities to make it even better, and I look forward to working with colleagues as we head toward a committee vote next week," he added.

A provision in the bill that may concern safety advocates is that it maintains the status quo for trucks and buses – that is, it clarifies that new authorities for self-driving technologies in the bill apply to vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less and maintains existing U.S. Department of Transportation authority for advancing automated truck and bus technology in the future.

According to Peters' office, the bill as written would prevent the denial of a license to operate a self-driving vehicle on the basis of a disability.

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