Senate bill on self-driving cars includes dealer protections

Thanks to lobbying by members of WANADA and other state and metro dealer associations, the self-driving car bill introduced by two Senators last week includes clear franchise protections for dealers. The AV [automated vehicles] START Act, S. 1885, has clear language to ensure that state vehicle license and franchise laws as applied to AVs are not preempted by federal law.

WANADA Board member Robert Forgarty Jr. and CEO John O’Donnell were on Capitol Hill recently, lobbying Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to make sure the OEM’s could not go around franchise protection laws with the AV bill. They were among other dealers and dealer association executives who explained to their members of Congress that the federal preemption in the draft AV bill was too broad. These efforts combated a serious threat to state franchise laws and resulted in bill language that ensures that the state laws are preserved.

The bill was introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).

“This legislation proposes common sense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology,” said Senator Thune. “By playing a constructive role in the development of self-driving transportation systems, our government can help save lives, improve mobility for all American – including those with disabilities – and create new jobs by making us leaders in this important technology.”

The bill requires manufacturers to submit safety evaluation reports to the Secretary of Transportation with information addressing safety, crashworthiness and cybersecurity through documented testing, validation and assessment. Manufacturers could release up to 100,000 AVs per company three years after the bill’s enactment.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers praised the bill. “The Alliance will continue working with members of the Senate Commerce Committee to pass legislation to address existing barriers to safety technologies,” the group said in a statement. “These technologies will save lives and increase mobility for millions of Americans.”

The Senate Commerce Committee will consider S. 1885 on Oct. 4. A similar bill passed the House unanimously.

Download Bulletin PDF