Pennsylvania nears autonomous vehicle expansion

November 3, 2022

Keith Goble


Pennsylvania state lawmakers have sent to the governor a bill that is touted to modernize the state’s vehicle code to accommodate autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, the legislation would permit for the driverless testing and deployment of autonomous cars and trucks on Pennsylvania roadways.

State law now prohibits vehicle operation on state roadways without a human driver behind the wheel inside the vehicle.

Far from widespread support for driverless vehicle authorization

House lawmakers voted 119-79 last week to sign off on Senate changes to a bill to legalize and regulate driverless vehicles in the state. The action cleared the way for HB2398 to head to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. The Senate approved it on a 29-20 vote.

The autonomous vehicle bill would allow platooning with a driver in the lead vehicle. One nonlead vehicle would be allowed 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.

Labor concern voiced

Senate Transportation Committee Minority Chair Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, previously told the transportation panel that he acknowledges that autonomous vehicles represent “the way of the future and the way things are moving, whether we like it or not” but that he opposes the bill due to concern about how it will affect the state’s labor industry.

“This bill does not guarantee Pennsylvania workers a seat at the table,” Flynn said.

Supply chain boost touted

Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, said her bill would help the state “regain its position at the forefront of highly autonomous vehicle testing.”

“For years, the (highly autonomous vehicle) industry has had a healthy and encouraging presence in Pennsylvania – due in many ways to the institutions of higher learning specifically those with great robotics and engineering programs,” Oberlander said in prepared remarks.

She added that changes are needed in Pennsylvania because in recent years nearly half of all states have expanded their rules to allow for further deployment in the autonomous vehicle industry. As a result, the Keystone State is no longer on “the cutting edge.”

Oberlander said HB2398 “strikes an important balance between the concerns and challenges, while keeping the safety of Pennsylvanians top of mind.”

Additionally, she said the industry would help address the current supply chain issues to deliver food, medicine, and building supplies. LL

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