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 FeinsteinDemocrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors Doug Collins questions Loeffler's trustworthiness in first TV ad MORE (Calif.), and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's latest plan on racial inequality The Boston Globe endorses Markey in primary against Kennedy OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA effort to boost uranium mining leaves green groups worried about water | DNC climate platform draft calls for net-zero emissions by 2050 | Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country MORE (Mass.). 

In May, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: INOVIO R&D Chief Kate Broderick 'completely confident' world will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; GOP boxed in on virus negotiations Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers zero in on Twitter after massive hack | US, UK, Canada allege Russian hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine researchers | Top EU court rules data transfer deal with the US is illegal Lawmakers zero in on Twitter following massive hack 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 ThuneSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (R-S.D.), the former Commerce Committee chairman, and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHouse committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Trump may have power, but he still has no plan to fight the pandemic 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.