Federal Autonomous Car Legislation Blocked in Senate

Three Democrats blocked the bill due to concerns about the safety and security of autonomous cars.

byJustin Hughes|
Federal Autonomous Car Legislation Blocked in Senate

Three Senators, all democrats, have blocked the AV START Act from progressing to the Senate floor for a vote, reports Automotive News—but not on partisan grounds.

Instead, the Senators blocking the bill have concerns about the safety and security of autonomous cars. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, has expressed concern that the technology may not yet be developed enough to unleash on roads all over America. Feinstein should know, as a great deal of autonomous testing is taking place in her state due to permissive regulations, and accidents are happening.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is similarly concerned about safety and wants to require a fallback mechanism so that the driver can resume manual control of the car if needed. Meanwhile, Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is concerned about privacy and cybersecurity.

The AV START Act would allow up to 100,000 autonomous cars to be rolled out onto public roads across the U.S. This would override state laws on autonomous cars, including states that require manual controls or ban autonomous cars entirely. 

Proponents of the bill want to get it pushed through as quickly as possible so that the extensive rollout and testing can begin nationwide. The fastest way would be a unanimous passage in committee, which would enact the legislation without bringing it to the Senate floor. But only takes one negative vote to overturn this, and currently, the committee has three.

The Act can be brought to a vote on the Senate floor in an attempt to pass it if it continues to stall in committee. However, the Senate has more pressing concerns right now than autonomous cars, such as passing a budget and immigration legislation.