House E&C Considering 16 Automated Vehicle Bills – Here’s What’s in Them

Eno Transportation Weekly subscribers were the first to receive full details of all 16 E&C bills before anyone else – to subscribe, please contact KPrice@enotrans.orgClick here to find out why Congress, the Administration, and industry experts all rely on ETW for breaking news and in-depth analysis.

June 9, 2017

Update (June 20, 2017): House Energy & Commerce has struck two bills from their working draft. They are crossed out and summarized below.

This week ETW obtained a summary of the 16 bills on automated vehicles (AVs) that House Energy & Commerce Republicans are currently considering. A working draft of this summary has been circulated among Congressional staff and industry representatives to solicit feedback and build consensus before some (or all) of them are introduced this summer.

As we first reported in April, the legislative package includes a proposal to increase federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) exemption caps from 2,500 to 100,000. The first proposal would allow automakers and tech firms can test – and eventually deploy – AVs without steering wheels, brake pedals, and other components designed with humans in mind.

The majority of the bills are focused on expanding or clarifying the role of the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) responsibilities in regulating AVs in the development phase. This includes allowing for renewals of FMVSS exemptions to last for 5 years, authorizing the Secretary to grant FMVSS exemptions if the exemption “would promote public adoption and acceptance,” and establishing NHTSA to develop a memorandum of understanding with FTC regarding cybersecurity enforcement.

There are also a handful of proposals that would require the Secretary of Transportation to form different advisory councils on cybersecurity, mobility for people with disabilities, and communities that are underserved by public transit.

(Ed. note: 

ETW’s analysis of the 16 proposals (and their creative acronyms) is below.

PAVE (Practical Autonomous Vehicle Exemptions) Act. Increases the cap on FMVSS exemptions that the Secretary of Transportation can grant from 2,500 to 100,000 for vehicles in the following categories:

  • the development or field evaluation of a new motor vehicle safety feature providing a safety level at least equal to the safety level of the standard; or
  • if the overall safety level of the exempted vehicle is at least equal to the overall safety level of nonexempt vehicles.

ROAD (Renewing Opportunities for Autonomous Vehicle Development) Act. Expands renewals for FMVSS exemptions to last five years and authorizes the Secretary to “extend exemption renewals if requested.”

Disability Mobility Advisory Council Act. Directs the Secretary to create a Disability Mobility Advisory Council composed of representatives from the disability community, academics, directors of independent living centers, and the private sector. This group will submit recommendations to Congress and the Secretary on how the federal government can advance mobility access to the disabled communities while AVs are being tested and deployed.

Improving Mobility Access for Underserved Populations and Senior Citizens Advisory Council Act. Along the same lines as the disability council proposal, this would instruct the Secretary to establish an advisory council to provide recommendations on how AVs can enhance mobility for seniors and “populations underserved by traditional public transportation services.”

Highly Autonomous Vehicle Cybersecurity Advisory Council Act. This directs the Secretary to create yet another council to advise on cybersecurity performance metrics for AV testing, deployment, and software updates. Interestingly, “supply chain risk management” is included as one of the areas in which that the council will issue recommendations.

MORE (Maximizing Opportunities for Research and Enhancement of) AVs Act. Currently, 49 U.S.C. 30112(b) allows automakers to introduce non-FMVSS compliant vehicles into interstate commerce if they agree not to sell the vehicle when testing is complete. This would expand the law to allow equipment manufacturers and distributors to also conduct interstate tests of AVs.

INFORM (Increasing Information and Notification to Foster Openness Regarding Autonomous Vehicle Matters to States) Act. Directs NHTSA to inform state officials when it issues FMVSS exemptions for highly autonomous vehicles that will be tested or deployed in their state.

Defines highly autonomous vehicles but, for some reason, does not use the widely accepted and industry-backed definitions for levels of vehicle automation that were written by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and adopted by NHTSA.

DECAL (Designating Each Car’s Automation Level) Act. Thankfully, this one actually does use the SAE definitions. It requires manufacturers to place highly visible stickers on vehicles for sale that indicate the vehicle’s level of automation. This only applies to levels 3, 4, and 5.

EXEMPT (Expanding Exemptions to Enable More Public Trust) Act. Expands the Secretary’s authority to issue FMVSS exemptions for AVs that would promote public adoption and acceptance, or increase mobility for people with disabilities – provided that the vehicle is as safe or safer than vehicles that comply with FMVSS.

MEMO (Managing Government Efforts to Minimize Obstruction) Ac. In short, this instructs NHTSA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to play nice and stay in their respective lanes when it comes to AV cybersecurity. NHTSA and FTC would have to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would prevent overlap and duplication in their oversight of privacy and cybersecurity.

TEST (Testing Enhances Safer Technology) Ac. This was buried in the end for a reason – the TEST Act would preempt states from establishing any standards or regulations on the design or performance of AVs and prohibits states from requiring a human driver in a highly autonomous vehicle (likely means AV level 4 or 5).

This will also prevent states from restricting AV developers from testing up to 250 highly autonomous vehicles within their state.

However, the proposal reinforces states’ authority to oversee registration and insurance of motor vehicles and enforce traffic laws.

It will define highly autonomous vehicles – hopefully using the SAE levels of automation.

Since over 40 states have considered AV bills in the last several years and around 15 have passed legislation on AVs, this proposal may encounter significant opposition from the state officials.

SHARES (Sharing Autonomous Vehicle Records with Everyone for Safety) Act. Establishes yet another council that will develop a framework for AV developers to share event, incident, and crash data without risking public dissemination or leaking proprietary information. This is based on the oft-repeated concept that the industry “shouldn’t make the same mistake twice” with AVs – instead, they should share information about how and why their AVs crash in order to avoid future incidents.

If enacted, the bill requires the council would to issue recommendations to the Secretary and Congress within two years.

FORWARD (Focusing Our Resources Wisely & Avoiding Retroactive Decisions) Act. This addresses one of the major concerns about the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (FAVP) that was released last year, which asked AV developers to voluntarily submit a Safety Assessment Letter (SAL) before testing, deploying, or updating AVs level 2-5. Automakers immediately pushed back, arguing that level 2 vehicles were already on the road and were not sufficiently autonomous to be treated like AVs at levels 3-5.

AV PROMPT (Pre-Market Approval Reduces Opportunities for More People to Travel Safely) Act. Prohibits the Secretary from establishing a pre-market approval or pre-certification process that would require USDOT to assess the vehicle’s safety before it is manufactured or sold.

GUARD (Guarding Automakers Against Unfair Advantages Reported in Public Documents) Act. This is intended to prevent leaks of proprietary information. The bill would require NHTSA to treat information about collisions, cybersecurity, and vehicle design that it receives from manufacturers as confidential.

LEAD’R (Let NHTSA Enforce Autonomous Vehicle Driving Regulations) Act. “Establishes NHTSA as the sole regulatory authority” for regulating AVs and expressly prohibits other government entities from prescribing motor vehicle safety standards for AVs. However, it would allow states and their political subdivisions to prescribe safety standards for AVs and AV components that the state purchases for its own use.


2 Proposals Removed from Recent E&C Draft

The TEST (Testing Enhances Safer Technology) Act may have been removed altogether or rolled into the LEAD’R Act, which reinforces the federal role in regulating motor vehicles. The significant difference between the two was that the TEST Act would preempt states from passing laws to restrict the testing of up to 250 AVs in the state.

FORWARD (Focusing Our Resources Wisely & Avoiding Retroactive Decisions) Act, which established that only NHTSA could require a Safety Assessment Letter (SAL) prior to testing. This was a response to states considering policies that would require AV manufacturers to submit their SALs prior to testing or deploying AVs. This would have reinforced the federal role in regulating FMVSS, but this language may have been included in the full text of the legislation.

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