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Transportation bill headed to House floor with vehicle safety, technology language

Monday, June 24, 2019 - 06:00
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The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation Appropriations legislation on the House floor soon. The bill provides $86.6 billion for investments in infrastructure and other U.S. Department of Transportation administrative and project expenditures. Important for independent automotive repairers are House Appropriations Committee initiatives that were also included the legislation. These are member priorities that are likely to make it through floor debate and, quite possibly, the conference with the U.S. Senate.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees are trying to get their bills approved prior to the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2019.  The Transportation bill will be bundled with four other appropriations packages for the next fiscal year. This “minibus” is an effort to avoid the gridlock in the appropriations process in recent congressional sessions. 

Some of the key initiatives included, relative to automotive repairers, are the creation of a new Center for Excellence at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that focuses on Highly Automated Systems Safety, a provision directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide more regulatory oversight of the development of autonomous vehicles and instructions for NHTSA to re-focus its efforts on new structural materials for vehicle manufacturing.

Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence (COE) — Advanced technologies are rapidly transforming the national transportation system, and are already critical components in airplanes, trains, and motor vehicles. In recent years, multiple fatal accidents have underscored the importance of validating the safety of new technologies. As automated technologies become increasingly widespread, the Committee believes the safety of the traveling public jointly depends on technology developers, owners and operators, and appropriate Federal regulations and effective oversight. To ensure automated technologies are safe and work as intended, the Department must have a workforce that can review and analyze complex transportation-based systems. The Committee directs the Secretary to stand up the Highly Automated Systems Safety COE. The Highly Automated Systems Safety COE would serve as a dedicated workforce at the Department with the necessary skills and expertise in automation and human behavior, including but not limited to, computer science, machine learning, sensors, and other technologies to audit, inspect, and certify the safety of highly automated systems across all modes of transportation.

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