House passes bill on autonomous cars, with franchise protections

House passes bill on autonomous cars, with franchise protections

The House unanimously approved a bill, H.R. 3388, that gives wide latitude to automakers to test their autonomous vehicles on public roads, but still includes state franchise protections for dealers.

The bill would allow automakers to put up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles on public roads in the first year without meeting existing safety standards. That number would rise to 100,000 vehicles a year over three years. Before the vehicles can be driven, however, automakers must prove to federal regulators that the cars are as safe as conventional cars.

States would not be able to block the autonomous vehicles, as federal regulators will have the final say. Automakers were anxious to avoid the patchwork of state laws that was already starting to form, with California having especially strong controls.

Most important for dealers, the bill would not pre-empt state franchise laws, as an earlier version of it would have. NADA worked with lawmakers to ensure those protections would be preserved and many dealers lobbied for them.

NADA is working with a bipartisan group of senators who will introduce a draft version of the House bill in the Senate soon. NADA urges dealers to meet with their senators to explain how important dealer franchise laws are to their businesses, their employees and their communities. The final self-driving cars legislation should include clarifying language, such as that in H.R. 3388, that explicitly provides that state vehicle licensing and franchise laws remain intact and are not pre-empted.

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