MLive: Federal legislation for autonomous vehicles expected in 2018
The drive for innovation in the auto industry continues at a revolutionary pace.
However, federal legislation still lags where automakers, traffic safety experts and the public needs it to be, according to officials at Detroit's auto show.
That could change this year, said U.S. Senator Gary Peters.
It's a national issue that particularly affects Michigan due to the dominance of the auto industry here - and how other nations also are making strides toward breakthrough technology.
"We're in a very competitive ... economic environment," said Peters.
"It's important that they're able to develop the vehicles, given the competitive pressures," Peters said, noting that Asian and European automakers also are racing toward autonomous development as the software that makes it possible.
"Being first is a big deal," Peters said. " ... You have to be fairly early to this technology."
Peters toured the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 16 with fellow Democratic Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow. They were joined by a bipartisan Congressional delegation. Later, Peters joined U.S. Rep. Bob Latta of Ohio and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of southwest Michigan, both Republicans, on a Politico panel on the future of mobility.
Regulations for driverless autos took center stage in the discussion, with Peters emphasizing that getting the so-called AV START (American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies) legislation passed into law is a priority.
The Commerce Committee on October 4, 2017, unanimously approved the pending legislation to advance testing and development of self-driving autos.
The bill next needs to reach the full Senate.
While auto companies say they've set production goals for autonomous vehicles - such as Ford Motor Company, aiming for 2021 -they are making substantial investments without a clear national vision of how the technology will be implemented on roads from testing through commercialization.
"Having a national framework .. is very important," said Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification at Ford.
Joan Claybrook, an advocate for highway and auto safety, raised concerns about what the pending legislation doesn't cover. She called it "inadequate" because it doesn't deal with electronics, cybersecurity or the vision capacity of the vehicle.
"Those are significant deficiencies," she said.
Yet while the road to federal legislation can be much slower than the pace of innovation, it's important that the U.S. put something into place to get ahead of where new autonomous developments go.
Peters said legislation should come into play in 2018, though he added that "it's impossible to put a timeline on (it)."
He said he hopes it will proceed through the Senate under unanimous consent, moving forward to the House of Representatives without barriers.
"Any one senator can put a hold on the bill," Peters said. "We're talking to folks and hopefully, we'll be able to move it forward that way."
He's expecting no issues from the White House.
"We've worked with the administration," Peters said, namely through co-sponsor John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota. "... This has bipartisan support."
By: Paula Gardner
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