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Sens. Peters and Thune Announce Joint Effort on Self-Driving Vehicles

Senators will examine bipartisan ideas for legislation advancing innovation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced a joint effort to explore legislation that clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology. Peters and Thune offered the following joint statement on this new partnership:

“More than any other automotive technology in history, self-driving vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the more than 35,000 lives lost on our roads and highways every year and fundamentally transform the way we get around. Ensuring American innovators can safely develop and implement this technology will not only save lives but also solidify our nation’s position as the world leader in the future of mobility. 

“As we seek to identify areas where Congress should assist innovators in bringing this new technology to our roads, we will work closely with our colleagues, interested safety and mobility advocates, and other leaders in automated vehicle technology to find solutions that enable the safe testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles and assure public confidence. We both recognize that public policy must adapt to this new, rapidly-changing technology to ensure the federal government maintains safety while leaving room for innovators to reach their full potential.

“Many current federal vehicle safety standards reference placement of driver controls and other systems that assume a human operator. While these requirements make sense in today’s conventional vehicles, they could inhibit innovation or create hazards for self-driving vehicles. Left on its own, the slow pace of regulation could become a significant obstacle to the development of new and safer vehicle technology in the United States. We are particularly interested in ways to improve regulatory flexibility for testing and development of self-driving vehicles without changes to regulations that would affect conventional autos. Our effort will also include a discussion on the existing patchwork of laws and regulations and the traditional roles of federal and state regulators.

“We both put a premium on building consensus with our colleagues, and we certainly expect to have opportunities to update the public on our work. While we don’t have a specific timetable for producing legislation, we aim to propose a joint bill this year.”

In March 2016, the Senate Commerce Committee, which exercises legislative jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation (DOT), held a hearing on automated vehicle technology and organized a Senate exhibition of self-driving car technology.

Senator Peters is also a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Smart Transportation Caucus. He played an instrumental role in advancing DOT’s recent competition that designated nationally recognized proving grounds for self-driving vehicles, and he introduced bipartisan legislation, which was included in the 2015 highway bill, allowing states to invest federal dollars in complementary vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.