House Passes Bill That Will Advance Self-Driving Technology

September 7, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Internet of things app developers have long been advocates for the exciting possibilities of autonomous automobiles. As lobbying group Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets puts it, “Self-driving vehicles offer an opportunity to significantly increase safety, improve transportation access for underserved communities, and transform how people, goods and services get from point A to B.” Self-driving technology has advanced exponentially over the past few years, but the lack of federal regulation has actually held it back from reaching its full potential. But it looks like that could change very soon.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the SELF DRIVE Act, a bill that establishes federal regulations for autonomous vehicle technology. Usually when IoT app developers hear the word “regulations,” they cringe; it seems all too often that regulations constrain innovation. But in this case, regulation actually allows for significantly more testing and research. Companies developing self-driving technology have to apply for special exemptions through the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) in order to test their vehicles on the road. Currently, the NHTSA allows only 2,500 exemptions in a year. If the SELF DRIVE Act passes through the Senate, that number will increase tenfold to 25,000 per year, before increasing to 100,000 per year in three years.

That means a lot more driverless vehicles on the streets all over the nation. As it stands now, states can write legislation that makes testing self-driving cars more difficult; in New York, for instance, companies developing autonomous vehicle technology must have $5 million insurance policies and police escorts for every test drive. The SELF DRIVE Act would put the power to regulate testing in the federal government’s hands, creating one set of rules for all 50 states. While there is some understandable concern about states’ reduced regulatory role and the intricacies of liability laws, companies like Uber, Waymo, Ford, and Lyft see the SELF DRIVE Act as a way to push their innovations in autonomous vehicles to the next level. Chicago IoT app developers have their fingers crossed that the bipartisan support the bill found in the House holds when it finally reaches the Senate.

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