United States Republican Senator John Thune and Democratic Senator Gary Peters announced that the two parties have reached a tentative deal regarding legislation that would make the rollout of truly driverless cars quicker and easier and that Senate should be voting as a whole on the bill on October 4th, Reuters reported on Thursday. The bill in question would bar individual states from deciding to block autonomous cars from their roads and would make a sweeping law change to allow cars without pedals and steering wheels onto public roads. Naturally, even if this law passes, relevant federal agencies will still get the chance to evaluate each particular make and model of self-driving vehicles before signing off on it and allowing it onto public roads.
The proposed bill was not publicized in detail and likely won't be until it's been voted on. Both Senators that came out and announced the deal surrounding the bill released a statement, saying that they were enthusiastic about the benefits that self-driving cars could bring, including more jobs, safer roads, and enhanced mobility for disabled individuals. Both this bill and a similar recently passed one exclude commercial vehicles like semi trucks, as well as any vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds. This high weight threshold seems to imply that almost any type of self-driving civilian vehicle will be considered for full legalization, so long as it can be proven to be safe.
The new bill is the latest part of an ongoing effort to build a comprehensive legal framework to reshape transportation laws around newer, smarter vehicles, including self-driving ones. Laws addressing safety concerns and how to integrate self-driving vehicles with human-dominated roads are still under development, with some parties left unable to find common ground to agree on. For now, most laws that are actually coming into the public eye and making it onto the books are along the lines of commonsense legislation that begins to consider the fact that self-driving cars exist. This bill is an example of that trend; among other things, it seeks to finally end any and all forms of prohibitions on self-driving vehicles on the simple grounds that they lack human-facing, in-cabin controls.