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Counties Seek Protection of Local Decisions on Fed Autonomous Vehicles Rules

February 20, 2020 by Dan McCue
(Source: Waymo)

As Congressional lawmakers close in on finalizing a bipartisan, comprehensive bill governing the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, the nation’s county governments are reminding them not to forget to leave room for local decision-making.

In a blog post published this week, the National Association of Counties says while it does not have a specific policy on AV regulations, it supports a strong federal, state and local partnership as any federal legislation or regulation is developed.

“Counties must have strong federal partners to ensure the safe and efficient integration of this technology into our communities,” the association says.

Earlier this month, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released seven sections of a draft bill, addressing cybersecurity, consumer education, inoperative controls, appropriations, personnel and staffing, crash data and the exclusion of trucks.

These sections were the result of a long process of attempting to reach bipartisan consensus on issues surrounding emerging AV technology.

The counties note that much of the legislative text within the newly released sections is still in brackets, meaning members are continuing to negotiate language for a final bill.

This comes several months after the committee released draft language for three other sections – exemptions, testing and evaluation and an AV advisory council – in October 2019. A section on rulemaking is still outstanding.

The association notes the draft bill comes in response to increased pressure from industry and stakeholders to provide a regulatory framework for the new, fast-developing industry.

However, efforts have failed in the past largely due to pressure from outside groups, including concerns about forced arbitration in previous versions of the framework.

For counties and other state and local governments, the main sticking point in negotiations continues to be the potential federal preemption of state and local regulations.

“State and local governments have raised concerns over provisions preempting states and localities from adopting laws, regulations and standards that would regulate many aspects of autonomous vehicles, including those that would impact safety,” the blog post says.

“Federal legislation that would preempt the ability of a county to regulate technology that has a direct impact on the safety of our residents and that also does not establish meaningful safety guidance itself can result in a safety vacuum where no one can act, resulting in unsafe, unregulated technology on our local roads,” the post continues. “Stakeholders are looking for language clarifying that state and local governments would not lose their traditional authority over traffic laws.”

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