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U.S. Senate panel sets goals for autonomous vehicle deployment

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Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, equipped with autonomous driving technology, navigates around a dummy at Honda’s GoMentum Station autonomous vehicle test site in Concord, Calif., on June 1, 2016. Photo credit: REUTERS

WASHINGTON — Senate Commerce Committee leaders on Tuesday said safety, reducing roadblocks to innovation, and clarifying federal and state regulatory roles are among the chief goals they will follow when drafting legislation covering autonomous vehicles in coming weeks.

“Self-driving vehicles will not only dramatically change how we get from place to place, they have the potential to prevent accidents and save thousands of lives,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who is spearheading the effort along with Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., and ranking member Bill Nelson of Florida, said in a statement. “I’m pleased we have compiled this bipartisan framework, which is an important step toward introducing and enacting meaningful legislation that will help the federal government promote the safe development and adoption of self-driving vehicles and ensure the United States remains the world leader in transportation innovation.”

The senators said legislation to regulate self-driving vehicles will need to recognize that new safety standards will eventually need to be set because old rules are incompatible with the new technology. The legislation must enable technology development to proceed while standards development is underway so companies aren’t stymied while rules are updated.

Other principles are:

• Legislation must be technology neutral and avoid favoring business models of some developers over others.

• Clarify separation of authorities, with the federal government regulating vehicles and states overseeing drivers, with targeted adjustments relative to self-driving vehicles.

• Address cybersecurity vulnerabilities when connected vehicles exchange wireless information necessary to safely perform driving functions.

• Address how companies can educate the public on what self-driving vehicles can and can’t do based on their level of automation and individual capabilities.

The Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on how to support testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles while ensuring public safety.

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