September 29, 2017

The AV START Act Gets the Rules of the Road Right for Autonomous Vehicles



Yesterday, Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act. This bill would expedite the deployment of autonomous vehicles on American roads, making transportation options more efficient, more accessible to the elderly and disabled, and ultimately safer.

For all those reasons, the Niskanen Center is happy to support this bipartisan effort, which aims to tackle the many problems of our human-operated vehicle fleet by minimizing the barriers to autonomous vehicles entering the market.

As we noted in a letter to Chairman Thune and Senator Peters:

Autonomous vehicles, like many emerging technologies, present new and unique challenges for lawmakers and regulators. This new frontier requires that we reconsider rules designed for a non-digital world; twenty-first century technologies require twenty-first century regulations. By recognizing this regulatory reality, the AV START Act will help usher in a safer and more autonomous transportation future for all Americans.

Additionally, the AV START Act mirrors many of the provisions contained in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) guidance for autonomous vehicles. By focusing on voluntary best practices for industry, NHTSA has come a long way since its initial policy guidance draft from 2016, which originally proposed more sweeping regulatory authorities and potentially burdensome reporting requirements.

The bill also shares many similarities with the SELF DRIVE Act, which recently passed by a unanimous voice vote in the House of Representatives. Notably, both bills embrace the need for preempting states on safety regulations, a stepwise increase in the number of autonomous vehicles that can be deployed, and requirements for firms to implement actionable cybersecurity plans, without dictating particular standards or approaches.

Between the recently-passed SELF DRIVE Act, the Senate’s AV START Act, and the newly promulgated NHTSA policy guidance, the future of autonomous vehicles is looking bright.

The Niskanen Center applauds the care and consideration that went into drafting this legislation.