On behalf of TechFreedom, the R Street Institute, and Americans for Prosperity, we would like to thank you for working in a bipartisan fashion to keep the prospect of federal automated vehicle legislation on track. We understand that the perfect is often the enemy of the good, so we share the following thoughts concerning what should, and should not, be included in legislation with the recognition that compromise will be necessary to move forward.

To be included:

  • Regulatory Certainty: in the context of traditionally-operated vehicles, standards related to the design, safety, and performance of highly-automated vehicles (HAVs) should be uniform across the states as a guarantor of regulatory certainty. Affirming this status quo in the context of HAVs is vital because it ensures that firms are able to continue to innovate without fear of being excluded from jurisdictions, and markets, on the basis of bespoke standards.[1] To that end, federal legislation should explicitly empower the Federal Government to set design, safety, and performance standards for HAVs.
  • Liability: to avoid preempting state liability law, and in keeping with the need to maintain the status quo distinction between federal and state spheres of responsibility, this new HAV bill should explicitly articulate that federal law does not supersede existing state approaches to the evaluation and apportioning of financial responsibility.
  • Rulemaking: legislation should direct the DOT to promulgate rules specific to HAVs. Existing standards were developed in a time that did not contemplate the technology of today. While valuable, contemporary interpretive efforts to address existing regulation of automated technologies, (such as DOT’s AV 3.0), will ultimately prove a poor fit for HAVs moving forward. A new bill should provide clear guidance to the DOT to promulgate rules that govern vehicles without a human operator, pulling largely from the standards outlined in FAVP 1.0.
  • Testing: this new HAV bill should also include an increase in the cap placed on exemptions from FMVSS so that HAV testing can effectively scale to fit the needs of the firms developing the technology.
  • Future of Work: to better understand the economic and social changes that will be brought about by the deployment and adoption of HAVs, legislation should establish an advisory committee to track and study the impact of HAVs.

To be excluded:

  • Dispute Resolution: a prohibition on the ability of HAV developers and operators to avail themselves of pre-dispute arbitration will not benefit consumers or industry. Instead, such prohibition will simultaneously slow the development and deployment of life-saving technologies without meaningfully improving the ability of consumers to seek redress. That’s because, while derided by some, alternative avenues of dispute resolution offer consumers a clear and cost-conscious avenue to resolve their claims. That predictability is mirrored on the corporate side of the equation and diminishes the high-level of uncertainty around the litigation of claims arising from HAV operation. Should Congress wish to address matters related to pre-dispute arbitration, and alternative methods of dispute resolution generally, it should not do so on a case-by-case basis. Such an approach risks disadvantaging an otherwise promising new technology. Rather, it should undertake deliberations specific to the issue.
  • SAE Level 2 Systems: though Level 2 capabilities like front-end collision detection and lane-keeping assist represent important developments in the context of safety systems in traditional vehicles, they should not be included in a bill governing HAVs operating at SAE Levels 3-5. While a separate piece of legislation contemplating Level 2 systems may make sense, it is vital that this bill be as concise and tailored as possible to address the unique challenges presented by Level 3-5 systems. Doing so would send a clear signal about the material technical differences between Level 2 vehicles and Level 3-5 systems in the context of the development of a novel regulatory regime.
  • Privacy: as Congress grapples with how to address digital privacy concerns throughout the economy, it would be premature to establish standards bespoke to the operation of HAV systems. What’s more, it is vital to recognize that consumer privacy is currently protected by the nation’s de facto privacy regulator, the FTC. Introducing an additional layer of data privacy regulation specific to HAVs would likely hamper the ability of manufacturers to collect data and improve their vehicles.

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like further clarification about any of our suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us, Ian Adams (iadams@techfreedom.org), Billy Easley (beasley@afphq.org) and Caleb Watney (cwatney@rstreet.org), at any time.


Ian Adams, Vice President of Policy, TechFreedom

Billy Easley, Senior Policy Analyst, Americans for Prosperity

Caleb Watney, Technology and Innovation Fellow, R Street Institute

[1] https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CFM-AV-Legislation.pdf