Autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation has been active at the federal and state levels. Congress recently revisited federal autonomous vehicle legislation, after last year's stalled efforts.
Last year, we saw competing bipartisan bills in the House and Senate. The House passed the SELF Drive Act that included provisions for broader federal preemption of state AV laws, and in particular to prohibit states from regulating operators of AVs. The SELF Drive Act also established a federal AV technology advisory council and updated various federal vehicle safety regulations to address AVs. The Senate considered, but did not pass, a competing bill: the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act. The AV START Act would preclude state regulation of AV systems and vehicle equipment related to AV systems. It also would have expanded regulatory oversight and rulemaking for AV systems, including testing provisions for industry and research institutions.
A new bill is currently being shaped with input from both chambers. One of the more important aspects of the proposed legislation is federal preemption (at least in part) of state AV legislation and state regulation of AVs. Since 2012, numerous states have been actively considering various autonomous vehicle legislation. In fact, 29 different states have enacted such legislation. Six states have executive orders related to AVs, signed by their respective governors. In preempting state legislation, Congress seeks to harmonize regulation relating to connectivity, operation, and safety.
Other provisions of the current legislative effort are similar to last year, and some of these provisions go further to address perceived safety concerns. However, the new bill will likely allow AV manufacturers to build vehicles without some traditional vehicle features, such as brake pedals, accelerator pedals, and steering wheels, through Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards regulatory exemptions from the Department of Transportation (DoT). Note that the DoT has been working independently to revise its regulations to allow the sale of autonomous vehicles that don't meet the current safety standards.
Our Fish team will be closely following the legislative efforts and will provide updates with potential impacts as interest in passing a bill heats up.
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