US Senate bid to loosen self driving regulations

  • April 27, 2021
  • William Payne

A bi-partisan effort has been launched in the US Senate to boost America’s self driving efforts and pave the way for more autonomous vehicles on roads throughout the country. US senators Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, and South Dakota Republican John Thune are introducing an amendment to grant federal regulators power to exempt tens of thousands of vehicles from current requirements to have a driver present behind the wheel.

The senators are adding the amendment to a federal funding bill, the Endless Frontier Act, a bill that promises an extra $100 million in funding for science and technology to boost competition with China and other countries Adding such amendments to spending bills has become an established device to fast track changes to federal regulations in the United States.

Under the senators’ plans, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) could exempt up to 15,000 vehicles per manufacturer per year from regulations that the law-makers believe are constraining development of autonomous driving. That number would rise to 80,000 per manufacturer in three years. At the moment, the NHSTA is allowed to exempt 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer.

The Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, an autonomous vehicle industry group that includes Uber, Lyft, Volvo, Ford, and Waymo, issued a statement supporting the initiative, saying that it “welcomes Senators Peters and Thune’s amendment to support autonomous vehicle testing and deployment in the U.S.” The amendment will “pave the way for AV technology to save lives, unlock new economic and mobility opportunities, and promote American leadership and innovation in this globally competitive arena.”