Autonomous vehicles should benefit cities, not the other way around, but legislation advancing through Congress would tie urban officials' hands when it comes to shaping AV policy.
Automakers and tech companies are pushing a bill through Congress that would handcuff local governments’ ability to regulate self-driving vehicles on city streets. Now city transportation officials are demanding a role in drafting legislation before it’s too late.
The stakes are high. Shaping autonomous vehicle systems to meet city needs could cut congestion, reduce traffic deaths and injuries, and free up scarce urban space for more pressing needs than car storage. Or the regulatory framework could introduce new hazards and place additional restrictions on people’s movement while walking or biking.
Legislation is moving quickly through Congress. The House of Representatives held a June 27 subcommittee hearing on a package of 14 bills regulating self-driving cars, then consolidated them into a single bill, which a House subcommittee voted for last week 54-0. The bill is on its way to the House floor while the Senate prepares similar legislation.
The House bill, HR 3388, would allow each car manufacturer to test up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles on public roads, a 40-fold increase from the 2,500 allowed today. Vehicle manufacturers would self-certify their autonomous vehicles with the U.S. Department of Transportation, without an independent review of the technology’s safety.
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