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What's next for AV policy?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - 06:00
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The failure of the 115th Congress to address new vehicle technology policy has created quite the dilemma for several key issues important to the automotive sector. Specifically, for the aftermarket, this applies to data access.

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Although autonomous vehicle legislation (AV), the Self-Drive Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote, the U.S. Senate’s AV legislation, the AV START Act, stalled after Senate Commerce Committee passage. Why does this matter? With the failure of the Congress to address AV research and implementation policies, this leaves the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) or state governments to move forward with policies. This has not occurred at DOT, but it is a different story for states.

The Obama Administration opted for policy guidelines versus regulation in September 2016 publishing “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety.” These “Best Practices” and model state policy guidelines provided no regulatory teeth to AV implementation. The current administration has issued two additional broad policies, “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0” and “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicle 3.0.” Despite these additional guidelines, the lack of federal legislative and regulatory implementation has created a breeding ground for inconsistent new vehicle technology policies. This comes not only in the form of a patchwork of state laws, but also multiple areas of direction for federal legislation. Specifically, states have not waited on the enactment of federal law. Many states have moved forward with their own AV legislation and numerous states have seen bills become law. A 50-state footprint of laws is not the best approach for AV regulation and could actually inhibit innovation. It certainly has repercussions for other aftermarket areas of interest.  More on this later.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures earlier this year:

  • Twenty-nine states—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin — and Washington D.C. — have enacted legislation related to autonomous vehicles.
  • Governors in Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

At the federal level, there has been some discussion of reviving last year’s AV legislation. Former U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) noted that AV legislation for the 116th Congress still has problems related to how much power states should have over regulating AVs. These were significant issues, in the Senate, last year. With the House now controlled by Democrats, preemption will become an even greater issue in the AV debate.

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