Nissan Autonomous Drive. (Image credit Norbert Aepli via Wiki Commons)


I asked, is Artificial Intelligence really a threat? Well...


The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted to pass Bill S. 1885- The American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, which was introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD) and is supposed to advance efforts to improve roadway safety through the development of autonomous vehicles.


What the bill does in a general overview is to allow automobile manufacturers pursue safety exemptions for autonomous vehicles based on production volume, while allowing individual states the ability to regulate registration, licensing, safety and insurance for said vehicles. This allows the Senate to establish what they call ‘a balance between federal and state laws affecting self-driving vehicles.’


What’s more, the bill offers several amendments with one that includes legislation to reform the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to establish a ‘National Suicide Prevention’ hotline presumably to help prevent employees (or anyone else) of the agency from committing suicide in said AVs. Regardless, those safety exemptions are based on production volume, which is capped for each manufacturer at 15,000 the first year, 80,000 over the next three and no cap in the fourth. The bill also exempts self-driving semi tractor-trailers due to various labor unions aversions about the safety and job security regarding truckers, which are vehemently opposed to the technology altogether.


Companies such as GM, Ford and Alphabet Inc. have been lobbying for some time for the landmark legislation as a way to increase revenue from auto sales even though safety groups urged for more safeguards, which this bill puts into states hands regarding those regulations mentioned earlier. While some fear the bill could stymie AV development (especially in trucks) and isn’t yet sophisticated enough to relinquish control, others see this as the first stone laid in the foundation of AV rules and regulations designed at advancing the technology.


At least that’s what Senator Thune and other members think stating, “Today’s vote underscores the bipartisan desire to move ahead with self-driving vehicle technology.” He goes on to add, “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.”


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