This article was published on June 17, 2021

US senator outrageously tries to exempt AVs from safety standards — gets rejected

Unions and attorneys rightfully opposed the proposal

US senator outrageously tries to exempt AVs from safety standards — gets rejected

While President Joe Biden’s plans to boost EV adoption have been well received, the incorporation of self-driving cars into US roads is still facing strong resistance.

Yesterday, the US Senate Commerce Committee rejected Republican Senator John Thune’s proposal to attach measures lifting regulations on autonomous vehicles (AVs) to a $78 billion surface transportation bill, Reuters reports. 

Thune has suggested granting to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to exempt a large number of autonomous vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind.

The senator has argued that self-driving vehicles could enhance road safety by eliminating human error, especially in respect to distracted or impaired drivers.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Thune’s attempted to facilitate the deployment of AVs, as he had also tried to attach the measures to a bill on China tech policy, earlier in May. In fact, alongside other lawmakers, he has been striving to win approval for the bill for nearly five years.

As a result of the strong resistance by union groups and attorneys, specifically, the Teamsters Union and the American Association for Justice, his bid didn’t go through.

The latter commented that it “will continue to oppose any legislation that exempts the driverless car industry from basic safety standards, and allows auto and tech companies to avoid being held accountable through the use of forced arbitration clauses.”

Similarly, Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, pointed in her response to recent Tesla crashes and other incidents involving driver assistance systems. 

Thune blamed the “Teamsters and trial lawyers” for collaborating with the Democrats on the committee, who are serving “special interests against the best interests of our economy and the American people.”

But is the senator really considering the best interest of the American people?

According to a recent study, Americans are still very wary of autonomous vehicle technology and the vast majority of the respondents still trust a human driver over a self-driving car.

Safety concerns of an unperfected new technology are of vital importance, and exempting (semi)autonomous vehicles from the safety standards seems more like offering support to the American AV companies like Waymo and Cruise.

Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

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