Pennsylvania House panel moves forward autonomous vehicle bill

June 15, 2022

Keith Goble


One bill moving through the Pennsylvania House is touted to modernize the state’s vehicle code to allow for the driverless testing and deployment of highly autonomous vehicles.

Currently, the Keystone State prohibits vehicle operation on state roadways without a human driver behind the wheel inside the vehicle.

The House Transportation Committee voted 15-10 to advance a bill to legalize and regulate driverless vehicles in the state.

Concerns voiced

Rep. Joseph Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, acknowledged the rapid advancement of safety technology of highly autonomous vehicles, but he shared his concern about how the technology will affect commercial drivers.

“We need to make sure regular Joe’s who do that job are able to continue to have access to being able to do these jobs that really have been a key staple of our economy … since we have had vehicles,” Hohenstein said.

“Because of the fact we seem to be leaving that human element out just a bit too cavalierly I am a no on this.”

Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, said he applauds the “wildly successful” advancements in technology.

“From the prospective of change that is coming down the pike, there is no way to stop this change, nor should we,” he said.

Carroll said, however, he does have concern about implementation, and assurances from some that everything will work out perfectly.

“I think the smart thing to do is tap the brakes a bit to make sure we get this right.”

Bill details

The bill, HB2398, would permit platooning with a driver in the lead vehicle. One nonlead vehicle would be permitted to operate with an automated driving system engaged.

A plan for general platoon operations must be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for review.

Additionally, the bill details procedures following any traffic incidents that involve autonomous operation. Proof of insurance coverage equal to at least $1 million would also be required.

Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, told the committee that Pennsylvania should join the 18 other states working with the autonomous vehicle industry.

“I believe this bill is critical. I believe it will continue to grow Pennsylvania’s economy in the technology sector,” she testified. “The capability this industry has to really turn our economy on its head and just grow is outstanding. I believe that it will help address the current and continuing supply chain issues. And I do believe it will save lives and improve safety.”

HB2398 next heads to the House floor. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.