The House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday that will streamline rules for self-driving vehicles.
The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act, also known as SELF DRIVE Act, will become the first self-driving car law in the U.S. if passed.
The goal of the legislation is to set up a legal framework for self-driving vehicle regulation, something industry experts say is desperately needed.
The Self Drive Act would also increase the number of autonomous vehicles on the road. Currently, car manufacturers working on self-driving technology must apply for an exemption with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The NHTSA only grants 2,500 exemptions per year. The new law would raise that cap to 25,000 per year at the start, and expand to 100,000 in three years.
The legislation also makes it clear that federal safety regulations preempt any state-level rules, preventing states from enacting laws that conflict with the federal law. Currently, states are in charge of creating their own regulations for vehicles.
While industry experts have praised the law, many of them feel that Congress is being too conservative in their timeline for raising the cap. The 100,000-per-year cap won’t go into effect until at least 2020, which many hinder development and innovation in the budding industry.
Others feel there may be issues in the future, as the law shifts the power to regulate vehicles from states to the federal government.
Although the Self Drive Act allows more autonomous vehicles on the road, car makers still have a responsibility to make sure that the self-driving cars they test are at least as safe as human-piloted vehicles.
Automakers will also be required to list their vehicles in a public database, and the law ensures a certain level of cybersecurity and data privacy.