Trucks remain exempt from autonomous vehicle bill passed by Senate committee

October 4, 2017

Tyson Fisher


Self-driving cars are another step closer to becoming a reality after the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has moved S.1885, or the AV START Act, to the Senate floor. In addition to several amendments, an exemption for large commercial vehicles is still intact.

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, the committee unanimously passed the self-driving vehicle bill with a voice vote. More than two dozen amendments were submitted, with two of those withdrawn.

One amendment withdrawn came from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., which sought to remove the heavy truck exemption from the definition of “highly automated vehicle.” The withdrawal keeps the AV START Act relevant to passenger vehicles only.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., withdrew his amendment that would require a manual override of self-driving vehicles. Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., argued the inconsistency of requiring drivers in a driverless car.

Among amendments approved by the committee:

  • Requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system (included in House’s SELF DRIVE Act, but omitted from original AV START Act text);
  • Reduces number of vehicles exempted from 100,000 to 80,000;
  • Include information comparing highly automated vehicles with vehicles that are not highly automated vehicles in potential consumer education and safety evaluation reports;
  • Expand the membership of the consumer education working group to include safety organizations and organizations with experience in drivers’ education; and
  • Various issues regarding cybersecurity.

“Today’s vote underscores the bipartisan desire to move ahead with self-driving vehicle technology,” Thune said in a statement. “Sen. Peters and the members of the Commerce Committee deserve credit for working together to move this bill forward toward Senate floor consideration and collaboration with our colleagues in the House of Representatives. The safety and economic benefits of self-driving vehicles are too critical to delay.”

From here, the AV START Act will move to the Senate floor. If passed by the Senate, S.1885 will go to the House, where it must also be passed before being signed into law by President Trump.