Federal Advocacy - Progress on the AV START Act

First, thank you to those who joined us in supporting the League of American Bicyclists by calling (or emailing) your Senators last week. We called you to action to stop the AV START Act from passing without clarifying components that would impact bicyclists and pedestrians. The following is an update from the League on the current status of the AV START Act after the efforts of local advocates like you!

We signed onto a letter from the League opposing the AV START Act and it made a difference! While we still don't know the fate of the AV START Act, key changes were made to the bill.

Specifically, they were able to get improvements in the safety evaluation reports in regards to bicyclists, pedestrians and other road users. The original bill language required AV manufacturers to describe how their Automated Driving Systems (ADS) had "a sense of" bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. The League was able to get “sense of” clarified to include “detection, classification, and response” to bicyclists. pedestrians, etc.

Under this new language, manufacturers will have to describe through a documented assessment, testing, and validation process, how their vehicles can successfully detect and respond to bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. opening themselves up to liability if the vehicle fails to do so. The League believes this change opens an opportunity when working with manufacturers to push for testing including:

  • Following safe passing laws, and safely passing bicyclists even where there isn't a law.
  • Ensuring AVs detect bicyclists stopped at red lights and pedestrians preparing to cross the street, and anticipating their movements to avoid dangerous right or left turns.
  • Include situations like dooring.

What's still missing?

It is not the pre-market national standard or "vision test" that the League advocated for. The manufacturers still get to design, implement and report on testing done of AVs. (Similar to how testing works for all cars now) but because the manufacturer has to certify specifically on detect, identify and respond to bicyclists and pedestrians their liability in increased. However, a standard test is in the purview of NHTSA. The League is working with other partners to advocate for such a test at NHTSA.

The language on liability limits federal pre-emption and forced arbitration for cases for "death and bodily harm". There had been a debate to use 'serious injury' instead of 'bodily harm'. Serious injury is a term defined differently in different states, and is much higher bar to cross. Bodily injury can include any physical injury.

So what happens now?

The League thinks we could get a better bill in the next Congress. If the AV START Act fails, we can take this new language as the starting point, and push for even stronger language.

While this new language has a much better chance of passing versus the original language. There are still major time and unrelated policy constraints. One change that could help the bill is Congress is extending their deadline until December 21
The sponsors of the bill are hoping to attach the bill to the final Senate budget package of the year.

We'll continue to closely follow this bill as it progresses, thanks in great part to our federal advocacy partners at the League. Thanks again to those who called and emailed their Senators!

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