Congress looks to rev up discussion around self-driving car legislation

Congress looks to rev up discussion around self-driving car legislation

Two key congressional committees are restarting talks with relevant stakeholders to put together legislation for self-driving cars after two bills last Congress failed to be signed into law amid pushback from consumer advocates and some Senate Democrats.

“The House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation are working on a bipartisan and bicameral basis to develop a self-driving car bill,” the panels wrote in a letter sent to stakeholders on Tuesday that was obtained by The Hill.  

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The committees asked for feedback on issues involved in creating legislation on self-driving cars such as the cybersecurity of the vehicles, the privacy of data collected and how to update existing standards in place for automated vehicles.

The panels gave stakeholders until Aug. 23 to respond with feedback on the creation of the bill, and stressed that the objective of asking for feedback was to be “as inclusive as possible.”

Putting in place standards around autonomous vehicles was a major bipartisan focus during the last Congress, with the House Energy and Commerce Committee approving the Self-Drive Act and the Senate Commerce Committee pushing forward the AV START Act. 

Both bills would have preempted any state laws pertaining to regulating self-driving cars, with both also including language on reducing cyber risks to the vehicles and ensuring the safety of occupants. 

While the House passed the Self-Drive Act by voice vote in 2017, the Senate never took up the AV START Act due to objections over safety and security provisions in the bill by Democrats including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings GOP senators object to White House delaying home-state projects for border wall MORE (Calif.), and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez endorses Markey in Senate race amid speculation over Kennedy candidacy House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (Mass.). 

In May, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns GOP chairman 'deeply disappointed' Zuckerberg declined to testify at hearing MORE (R-Miss.) said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event that his panel is “going to deal with autonomous vehicles” during this Congress, noting that there are “wrinkles that need to be ironed out” related to any legislation introduced on this. 

During the last Congress, Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure MORE (R-S.D.), the former Commerce Committee chairman, and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Lawmakers weigh responses to rash of ransomware attacks Dem senator calls for Pentagon watchdog to probe Air Force's Trump resort stay MORE (D-Mich.) led the charge to get the AV START Act passed in the Senate.

Last month, both Thune and Peters indicated to reporters that they will again take the lead on legislation on self-driving cars in that chamber.