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US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
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US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars

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  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 20, 2017 @09:09AM (#54845297) Homepage Journal

    Consumers Union, a public advocacy group, said the bill needs more changes and must "ensure that automakers demonstrate automated vehicles' safety and don't put consumers at greater risk in a crash." The group opposes "restricting states' safety authority without strong federal safety standards in place."

    I realize that states' rights is usually used as a truncheon in the war for racist symbology (or worse) but I, for one, find it a bit chilling that anyone is contemplating forcing standards on the states in this case, especially at this time. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to do that, because in this phase (testing) there is no need to drive farther than can be accomplished within a single state. If you're testing a long-haul truck, it can just drive a loop, or if it's in some state that's so crap that they don't even have a suitable loop, it can turn around.

    It's not clear that it will ever be necessary to force states to adopt self-driving vehicles, either. If their concerns are actually addressed (this is a "union", right?) then it should be possible to get them on board.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      50 different laws and regulatory frameworks, many based on fear and conjecture. Sounds great.

    • No, this isn't testing; this is for deployment. They're allowing a fleet of up to 100,000.

      Think about the economics. If we deploy 100,000 driverless freight and taxi vehicles in America this year, that's up to 100,000 of the 3.8 million career drivers unemployed. It could be less: rather than adding 50,000 to the fleet, we could remove 50,000 jobs with a total 100,000 driverless add. It'll be mostly taxis in the beginning, because passenger cars will come before freight haulers.

      That's only 2.6% ca

      • No, this isn't testing; this is for deployment. They're allowing a fleet of up to 100,000.

        When we're talking about the numbers from the major automakers, that basically amounts to the beta test. At some point you have to put vehicles in the hands of customers before you're really sure whether they're actually going to work in the real world, and that's the stage we've reached now.

        • No, it doesn't work that way. These are to be sold as actual product, and you can't equate this to R&D through funny logic. If your logic were valid, then pretty much every car on the road would be a beta test, because we get new model-years every year which are distinct from last year's car.

          They've been allowing them to drive these around for quite a while to test and develop the technology. Now they're going to certify the new tech as products to be sold to the consumer market, ready to go.

          • No, it doesn't work that way. These are to be sold as actual product, and you can't equate this to R&D through funny logic.

            Yes, it very much does work that way. It works exactly that way, especially in the auto industry. For example, right now Honda is selling (well, leasing) an unprofitable fuel cell vehicle [caranddriver.com] in California (where the infrastructure is) and then going on to pay for customers' fuel [honda.com] . If you manage to use all the fuel they will give you, then you will be effectively paying something like $99/mo for the lease. Dealers will make a trivial amount of money, just enough to bother with getting the vehicle in the door,

            • You're arguing a semantic which redefines what "testing" means. By your semantic, every activity is testing.

              Your argument suggests that everything you buy from the super market is a beta-test of this production batch of food to find out if salmonella poisoning shows up in population.

              • By your semantic, every activity is testing.

                In the days when a product didn't go out the door to be sold until it was tested, your point may have been valid. In modern production systems, every activity is testing, even routine use by consumers. Automotive recalls are just the tip of the iceberg in recognizing that; every product you buy is being tested by you and whether you call customer support to get it fixed or not are the test results.

      • Interesting argument. I think you're giving Congress credit for way too much foresight, though. I'm not disagreeing that what you say may be the effect, or that it may be a good thing... I just doubt it's the reason that Congress is doing it.
        • Congress is full of people who are really bad at economics. That said, I do believe they're at least competent. They may be wrong about a lot of stuff, and limited in their scope of knowledge; but they've got long experience and lots of stake, and some general idea of what they're doing.

          You don't want savants running your country, anyway. You end up with eugenics.

          • Oh, I definitely believe that Congress is full of competent people. But I still seriously doubt that any of them followed your line of thought. If they did, there are a lot of other, more obvious, things they could be doing to ease the transition of the coming wave of automation, not just trying to accelerate one little part of it.

            No, it makes a lot more sense that the 100K limit was a compromise between Congressmen who want to accelerate self-driving technology development (because it will be really good

      • maybe some states will pass laws like the ones where you can't pump your own gas to save jobs!

        • The problem with the "saving jobs" argument is essentially the reason we need social safety nets: any attempt to do any such thing as people tend to think of it is detrimental and damaging when successful.

          We're always going to have more job seekers than jobs, thanks to Malthusian growth: population expands in abundance. The more economic pressure on the population, the more delays you have in starting families, and the less immigrant labor you draw. People are myopic about this and point to the poores

      • I mean, it's certainly a step along the way, but, self-driving does not mean "driverless". This bill has nothing to do with allowing autonomous vehicles to drive without a licensed driver at the wheel. That's going to take years. It's an inevitability but drivers are going to have plenty of warning to shift towards a new line of work as the industry makes the shift. I'm not saying that the shift is going to be all sunshine and lollipops, and I support programs that make it easy for people who's job is being
        • even without that, the entire transportation industry won't be able to transition at once. There won't be enough new vehicle production, the approval process for new models will be slow; any retrofitting kit for existing vehicles will have the same problems

          Valid, but there's another--

          existing fleets won't have enough capital for the investment of new vehicles. Some companies will have a greater interest in early adoption, others will wait for the technology to mature.

          Never mind, you got it.

    • by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @09:39AM (#54845449)
      You realize incorrectly.

      States rights are an essential check and balance on the concentration of power. The fact that some racists took it up as a rallying point no more indicts states rights than a KKK or Final Call newsletter indicts Freedom of the Press.

      Imagine how much further along we would be if we, as a nation, respected states rights. You want weed legal. Good do so in your state. You think universal health care should exist. Good do so. Pass it in your state. That is the only way we, as a continent sized country, with a lot of different sides (it's way more complicated than left/right) can coexist without much friction. You want to allow women to walk around topless, allow anyone to use any bathroom, x,y,z. Pass it your state. If others find it to be a good idea they'll adopt it.
      • by skids ( 119237 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @09:57AM (#54845547) Homepage

        Recently Sessions is on a tear to prevent states from banning civil asset forfeiture without a conviction by amping up the federal asset forfeiture adoption program. So much for Republican support for "states rights." Which is what GP is getting at: states rights are only a political convenience... when they disagree with federal policy because it doesn't let them keep the brown folks in the ghetto: "STATES RIGHTS!". When they want to beat up on poor people in blue states or do something to earn corporate campaign contributions, not so much.

        • I'm a big proponent of states rights as a way of limiting Federal power and as a way of bringing in needed change in a more timely manner.

          You're correct in that this is not simply a left/right or Democrat/Republican thing.

          Obama and his administration overstepped their role (without enough state pushback) as far as California medical marijuana laws. Sessions is doing much the same here. In both cases they're wrong.

          There are powers reserved to the states and others which belong to the Federal governm
          • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @10:45AM (#54845827)

            It needs to go to the Supreme Court to delineate how state law can limit asset forfeiture on debts owed to the Federal Government.

            Civil asset forfeiture has nothing to do with owing debt. It is charging property with a crime so it can be confiscated: by the way, property does not get a day in court, it just belongs to the police now. In other words, it allows police at any level of government to be highway robbers, quite literally. Pulled over for speeding and your brake light was burned out? I think your car is being used for illegal purposes, so I am entitled to all of the cash in your car, including in your wallet, because that cash is guilty of being involved with a crime and it cannot legally defend itself.

            This has everything to do with a gross violation of the fourth amendment and nothing to do with paying debts. The fact that when people fight it in court the police decide to settle rather than go to trial is very telling of the fact that nobody thinks this practice will pass Constitutional muster.

            • Ok. I thought it was for both; debt and confiscating property for "illegal" activity before being convicted of a crime.

              I was willing to give a pass on the relationship between state and federal for debt (which, if I remember correctly has not been ruled upon - that there were numerous gray lines) but I agree completely, absolutely regarding the seizure for "illegal" activity. This is horrendous on all levels, local, state and federal.
            • As implausible as that example sounds the reality is even worse. Countless people have had wads of cash confiscated because the only "reasonable" cause to have more than a hundred dollars in cash is obviously related to drug trafficking. Then there are the cases of homes being confiscated because a resident that was not the owner had possibly sold drugs to a friend.

          • by skids ( 119237 )

            As the Snowman notes, I think given your leanings if you read into what civil asset forfeiture is, you'll come away pretty livid that such a thing was even allowed to exist in the first place.

            • thanks yes- I thought it was debt owed as well as pre-conviction seizure for participating in "illicit" activities.

              Regarding debt - I can see some gray area - but not for pre-conviction seizures.
        • Yeah sure that's what we need, jackbooted thugs who are ostensibly 'law enforcement' who can just grab you and with no cause or reason rifle through your wallet/purse and belongings and take your valuables. What the hell is the U.S. turning into? That sounds like the kind of crap the Federales in Mexico will pull on you!
      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        You think universal health care should exist. Good do so. Pass it in your state.

        I mostly agree with you, but this one would run into problems if one state provides universal health care and other states' residents still could move there freely if they had a serious issue. Health care seems naturally to make sense as a national issue.

        Having broad standards for autos, which inherently are mobile, makes a lot of sense. If I buy a car from the next state over I don't want to have to worry about whether the reverse lights are in the right place or whatever.

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          That's easy you just create some residency requirements. Like most states that offer lower instate rates for public colleges etc, will say you have to have been a resident for X years.

          In the case of universal heath coverage that extra double plus works. Make the requirement five years or so and lots of folks with super expensive conditions they can't afford to cover would expire before becoming eligible. Meanwhile you long time tax paying residents and their families in the case of the newly born get to

          • Then you just create barriers to people moving from state to state. Unless two states have a reciprocity agreement, someone can't move from one state to another without losing health coverage, even if they have the exact same system.

            And, TBH, from a purely practical perspective, there's no reason to treat healthcare as a state issue to begin with. Everyone needs it. The fact you're in Texas doesn't mean your requirement to have healthcare cover is different to that of someone in NY. Even the right recog

            • someone can't move from one state to another without losing health coverage

              HIPAA already covers this... you get a "Certificate of Creditable Coverage" from your old insurance/State and give it to the new insurance/State and you're usually good to go.

              • and now that I look further, even these are no longer needed due to ACA's removal of pre-existing condition exclusions. I suppose if ACA 2.0/AHCA or whatever gets passed this might change but for now this is a non-issue.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Cars and trucks cross state lines. This is just a rule to keep the likes of Governor Moonbeam from stopping them at the California state border for tax revenue.

    • Interesting how one is for the 10th Amendment in this case, but against it in others.

      That said, I do think that Congress shouldn't be mandating things like this, that are better left to the states. Since the GOP normally supports sending things down, one wonders who greased their hands so that they would go ahead & do this. Particularly since a quick adaption of self driving cars would result in massive unemployment of truckers & drivers.

      • Since the GOP normally supports sending things down, one wonders who greased their hands so that they would go ahead & do this. Particularly since a quick adaption of self driving cars would result in massive unemployment of truckers & drivers.

        Yep. And this has to be aimed specifically at trucking, because otherwise, who cares if you can drive from state to state on autopilot? Aside from OTR hauling, interstate driving is a minuscule percentage of traffic. If an ordinary driver has to take the wheel while going through some crappy state, no big deal. If you have to keep truckers sitting around at an office near a state line to drive trucks through that state, that's a problem.

  • To have such sweeping regulation come through a republican congress, someone with lots of dough must be "contributing" to get this through.

    I'm not sure that "put something on the market, safety be damned" is going to get us there any faster although I do support the sentiment of less regulation.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 20, 2017 @09:18AM (#54845349) Homepage Journal

      All the major automakers want to start producing autonomous vehicles ASAP, and I do mean all. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about commuter econoboxes or class eight trucks, there is immense customer demand for AVs. AVs are seen as the solution to reducing (some claim "eliminating") road fatalities, which is making them desirable to government. How plausible eliminating driving fatalities actually is remains to be seen, but it's difficult to imagine accomplishing it without virtually one hundred percent adoption.

      • As long as autonomous and human driven vehicles can be on same roads...go for it.

        But I hope it doesn't happen in my lifetime, that I can no longer own and drive my own cars/trucks.

        • As long as autonomous and human driven vehicles can be on same roads...go for it.

          For the immediate future, that is surely the plan. Forcing people to make the switch en masse in the immediate future would basically murder the auto industry as we know it. They're not ready to give up on private ownership of vehicles yet, because they make quite a bit of money selling people features they don't need, or overpricing the ones they actually want. But don't be surprised if every automobile is required relatively soon to carry a V2V beacon which reports on (at minimum) vehicle speed, accelerat

      • You'll never eliminate road fatalities. You might limit them, but never eliminate them.

        A tyre bursts at 70mph on the motor-way. Possible death.
        Brakes fail. Possible death.
        A camera fails, or dirt on the lens makes it pass incorrect information to computer. Possible death.
        A human outside the vehicle jumps out in front of traffic and no time for car to stop. Possible death
        A deer runs in front of car from a bush that is roadside. Possible death.
        Car AI develops sentience and becomes suicidal and drives int

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          You'll never eliminate road fatalities. You might limit them, but never eliminate them.

          A tyre bursts at 70mph on the motor-way. Possible death.
          Brakes fail. Possible death.

          True, but a self-aware car could handle these types of situations better than a human. Front right tire blows? Only apply the rear brakes and pull over safely. Brakes fail? use the other half of the system, or in the case of an electric car use the regenerative braking instead.

          Elimination may never happen, but almost every scenario should be able to be vastly improved.

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          A tyre bursts at 70mph on the motor-way.

          Possible yes, a computer with a stability control system that can apply breaking independently to the remaining three wheels, and also has steering control, stands a pretty good shot of safely slowing car and steering it onto the median.

          Brakes fail.

          Almost impossible, AVs will for the most part probably have 4 wheel independent braking. Almost all cars on the road today have two separate hydrolic circuits one on the front one for the rears, so you don't lose all breaks at once. A computer controlled system is going

        • A tyre bursts at 70mph on the motor-way. Possible death.

          Tires are going to go away. Not tomorrow, not next week, but pretty soon. They're going to be replaced by tweels [wikipedia.org].

          A human outside the vehicle jumps out in front of traffic and no time for car to stop. Possible death

          (see also: deer example) Actually, vehicles keep getting designed to be safer and safer in these situations, both for the occupants and for who or whatever they hit. Maybe we'll wind up with external airbags.

      • This consumer demand you're talking about has nothing to do with eliminating road fatalities. It has everything to do with baby boomers getting too old to drive.
        • This consumer demand you're talking about has nothing to do with eliminating road fatalities. It has everything to do with baby boomers getting too old to drive.

          I probably skipped an "also" in there somewhere, my apologies. The federal government wants to reduce road fatalities because they cost money. AVs are seen as the only plausible way to do that which will be accepted by Americans. However, I think you're underestimating the appeal of autonomous vehicles to other segments of the population. Parents who want to be able to change their children (or slap them) while the vehicle is in motion, millenials who don't actually care about cars because they've been rais

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        More accurately, it is all the major automakers thinking one of them will get there before the rest.

      • The technology is being rushed to market at a breakneck pace, and it's not anywhere NEAR ready to be let loose on public streets. it's going to be a disaster and there will be deaths because of it, and it could all be avoided if people could just manage to not get swept away by the media hype and the empty promises made by people who do NOT understand the technology in the first place.
    • Transportation is one of those thorns in the side of politicians.
      1. It affects everyone. Nearly every citizen in every social class is affected by transportation policies. This normally makes it difficult to propose theoretical partisan policies. Because if it fails, you are to blame for the failure.
      2. It isn't exciting. A brand new lane on Rural Route 7, is expensive, and can have a positive impact. However it isn't something that you can call on a big win. Because now those Semi trucks shipping across s

    • What if you're twice as likely to be injured or killed in a crash equally as severe, but crashes of a given severity are 1/3 as likely?

      That's like 67% as much injury and death--a safety win.

      We can't predict how frequently these will crash in practice with a great degree of accuracy, or how safe they will be. It's likely they won't ditch all safety systems, but rather will come "close enough" which is not close enough. The combination effect is likely to be better, because a failure to demonstrate will l

      • On the other hand, they may just fail to see 67% of markings at construction zones and plow through anyone and anything that was on the road as the map has it marked.
        • That's what the whole "can't predict" thing is. It's likely they handle those situations, and that they'll be better than current average; it's not predictable by what degree, and the degree can be negative.

          • It's likely they handle those situations? Who has proved it through millions of construction zones? it seems every construction zone has a different type of marker. I don't care how likely it is, someone should have to prove it first without sacrificing non-participating individuals.
      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        eh...you believe this Congress cares about accidents of the proles?

        • This congress is psychotic. They genuinely believe they serve the good and the will of the people; they're just delusional.

    • To have such sweeping regulation come through a republican congress, someone with lots of dough must be "contributing" to get this through.

      It does seem to be a little unusual that cutting edge science and technology is not meeting the usual resistance and evoking the same level of panic it normally gives them.

      I would have expected them backing a return to horse and carriage long before they would back driverless cars.

      • by skids ( 119237 )

        You should see them when it has to do with air travel. Every airline related thing sends the D.C. politicians into a tizzy because they have to personally use the airlines. Also most of the media, especially the business media. They'd preempt live coverage of the statue of liberty catching fire for a story about airlines banning duck boots.

    • I'm not sure that "put something on the market, safety be damned" is going to get us there any faster although I do support the sentiment of less regulation.

      It does make sense to me if the assumption is that the manufacturers will be on the hook 100% for safety (which, legally, I can't see how they couldn't be, and which is a model manufacturers have actively embraced.)

      The issues I can see this solving are:

      - Safety is currently oriented around driver driven cars. Driverless cars will need a different

  • The Removal of government regulations that the Republicans like, so they can kill off progressive people who are more apt to ride in these.
    The advancement in technology that the Democrats like, so they can make more middle class people useless.

  • and those other pesky safety features which literally saved the US auto industry from becoming another grave.

    • and those other pesky safety features which literally saved the US auto industry from becoming another grave.

      Where are you getting that information. I don't see anything in the article or this thread that says you don't have to have a seat belt on in an automated car or that other safety devices are being disabled.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        Right but there are a lot of safety standards that might not make ANY SENSE AT ALL for AVs. Should an AV for example be required to have a side and rear view mirrors for example? What about a rear backup camera with a display for the driver who does not exist?

        There are current safety requirements that don't make sense when a human isn't the driver.

        • Right but there are a lot of safety standards that might not make ANY SENSE AT ALL for AVs. Should an AV for example be required to have a side and rear view mirrors for example? What about a rear backup camera with a display for the driver who does not exist?

          There are current safety requirements that don't make sense when a human isn't the driver.

          Unless, of course there is a manual override feature. If a human is able to take over at any point a rear view mirror and side mirrors become important again.

          Even on a fully automated car that a human cannot take control on they'll probably have a rear view mirror so that women can apply makeup! ;)

          Unless they do the sensible thing and have all seats facing backwards for safety. If a human never takes over the driving then there is no technical reason to face forwards; since facing backwards is safer, an AV

  • Current federal motor vehicle safety rules prevent the sale of self-driving vehicles without human controls. Automakers must meet nearly 75 auto safety standards, many of which were written with the assumption that a licensed driver will be in control of the vehicle.

    Why not just revise the standards with the possibility of automated control in mind? I feel like this is subverting safety measures that are still relevant.

  • If I were a drug company, I'd be irate at self driving cars getting a free pass while I have all kinds of crappy FDA requirements to meet for every drug that goes to market. If I were an airline manufacturer, I'd be irate at all the testing I have to do for every new model. These companies have more than enough money to set up realistic testing campuses. This is all about profits.
    • It will take a mass casualty that gets national exposure, or a single senator/congressman fatality to get anything reversed. I'm all for automous vehicles but they have obviously been oversold in terms of what's possible today and public safety should be a concern. Until the cars can be harassed by pissed off human drivers and not freak out they won't be viable in cities. People will abuse their weaknesses straight away.
      • Everyone talks about how far ahead Google is, but they still have humans intervening frequently. No rational thought on this topic.
    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Companies are all about profits? Does anyone else know this?

      • Ok so stop saying it's about saving lives then, if they don't care about making it almost perfect before putting it on city streets.
  • The house subcommittee has done nothing yet. They only allowed a proposal to be debated in committee en route to a vote by the full committee. Even if approved by the committee, the legislation has to be approved by a house vote, then a senate vote, then signed by Trump.

    This initiative is still a long way from becoming law. No point in getting excited until it gets a lot closer to reality.

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