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If the SELF-DRIVE Act is any indication, the law might actually keep up with the technology.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the self-driving car bill by a voice vote. H.R. 3388 is a first-of-its-kind legislation, if not one of the first unanimous votes on a bill in the current administration.
It bodes well for the future of autonomous vehicles, which still have a way to go as the self-driving cars on the road are basically test versions.
The first test vehicles rolled out in 2010, but the major carmakers still are not ready for mass production. Google's Waymo division is leading the technology, yet it has only 100 autonomous vehicles rolling.
Under current law, manufacturers may put up to 2,500 AV's on the road each year. The SELF-DRIVE Act increases that number to 100,000.
The increase is gradual -- 25,000 per year under certain exemptions -- and should give manufacturers enough time to get their production acts together. The House bill, if it becomes law, would also require cybersecurity plans and privacy policies to protect consumers.
State legislation, and litigation, has already informed carmakers about some limitations. Uber, which is fighting with Waymo over its technology, took its self-driving cars to Arizona after California required permits for its little fleet.
SELF-DRIVE will occupy the field of vehicle safety law and would preempt state laws. But the states will still have the power to legislate vehicle registration, licensing, driver education, insurance, law enforcement, and other matters already left to the states.
According to reports, state lawmakers have considered scores of proposed bills to regulate autonomous vehicles this year alone. Car companies actually want Congress to jump in and fix the patchwork legislation.
Most of all, federal legislators want self-driving cars to be safe. That's the main motivation for the unanimous push to stay ahead of the technology.