A trio of senators plan to establish a new model for regulating self-driving vehicles, with the hope that the new technology could cut the number of deadly car crashes.
"Self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety," Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said Tuesday. "Working on a bipartisan basis, we continue to make progress in writing what we expect will become the first ever changes in federal law helping usher in this new transportation era."
To ease those developments, Thune and other lawmakers plan to craft legislation to set safety standards while keeping regulations light enough for the technology to flourish. The senators also hope to "educate the public to encourage responsible adoption of self-driving vehicles," according to a list of policy principles released Tuesday.
"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," Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who represents the auto-industry reliant state of Michigan.
"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 new technology will demand some imaginative policy-making, as senators work to avoid boosting one driverless car manufacturer at the expense of another and develop a model for state and update existing regulations that were written for traditional automobiles. They're also worried about the new risks that could come to bear as self-driving vehicles take the road, which could lead to unique regulations.
"Cybersecurity should be a top priority for manufacturers of self-driving vehicles and it must be an integral feature of self-driving vehicles from the very beginning of their development," the principles stated. "Legislation must address the connectivity of self-driving vehicles and potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities before they compromise safety."
Those competing interests will make for a complicated legislative process, despite the enthusiasm of some senators.
"While these principles are just a start, it's my hope we'll find bipartisan consensus on legislation that prioritizes safety and advances the technology," Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee, said in a brief statement.