House approves bill to ease deployment of self-driving cars

A Tesla Model S car equipped with Autopilot

A bill just breezed through the US House of Representatives that aims to give automakers an incredible amount of freedom in testing its self-driving cars on public roads.

Reuters reported Tuesday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil revised self-driving guidelines on Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, citing sources.

The first major piece of federal legislation supporting autonomous vehicles is headed to the U.S. Senate after passing Wednesday in the House. "We look forward to continue working with Members on both sides of the aisle in the House and the Senate to enhance auto safety and expanded mobility that will further solidify USA innovation and leadership".

The bill does not address "commercial motor vehicles", meaning vehicles with more than 10 occupants and certain trucks.

"With this legislation, innovation can flourish without the heavy hand of government", said Ohio Republican Bob Latta, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that developed the legislation. But one consumer group said the House bill did not do enough to ensure self-driving cars would be safe. A separate autonomous vehicle bill is in the works in the U.S. Senate, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reportedly announcing updated self-driving guidelines next week.

Traditionally, the federal government has regulated vehicle safety, and states have handled vehicle operations, such as issuing driver licenses.

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Automakers and tech companies have warned of a potential patchwork of rules, where 50 states deliver 50 different sets of rules for self-driving vehicles.

The new parameters from the Trump Administration are expected to be a bit more lax than the initial ones set forth by the Obama Administration in 2016.

The bill mandates that all manufacturers of self-driving cars develop a cybersecurity plan that includes a process for detecting and responding to cyberattacks, mitigating vulnerabilities to attacks, and taking preventative and corrective action when necessary. The bill will also allow the deployment of up to 25,000 self driving vehicles in the first year and raising up to 100,000 a year by the third year.

Automakers raised numerous concerns about the Obama administration guidance, including the suggestion that automakers should submit systems to regulators for review before putting them on the market.

Through these changes, supporters of the act hope that more companies can get more autonomous cars on the streets with fewer roadblocks (pun unintended) for testing.

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