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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 FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (Calif.), and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (Mass.). 

In May, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Republicans start turning the page on Trump era The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states 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 ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (R-S.D.), the former Commerce Committee chairman, and Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersRepublican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff 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.