Of the federal lawmakers meeting today to discuss draft legislation regulating self-driving vehicles, two reps are from western Pennsylvania.
Last week, draft legislation regarding self-driving cars advanced from a U.S. House subcommittee to Energy and Commerce for a full committee markup. The committee meets at 10 a.m. to discuss the self-driving vehicle draft among other bills.
As representatives of a region where self-driving car research has happened for decades and one of the few places where there are self-driving car rides available to the public through Uber, The Incline checked in with Rep. Mike Doyle and Rep. Tim Murphy to get their thoughts on the draft bill and what’s next.
Three things to improve
It’s not unusual for Democrat Mike Doyle to see a self-driving car when he’s home in 14th District, which includes Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.
Doyle, co-founder and co-chair of the robotics caucus, said he’s in regular contact with Carnegie Mellon University and is happy to share what self-driving cars have meant for Pittsburgh with the rest of the committee as they work on a bipartisan bill.
“You can’t stop technology,” he said, and “rather than try to stop technology [it’s best] to embrace it.”
There are still some issues that need to be worked out such as pre-exemption, cybersecurity and safety, Doyle said of the bill.
Pre-exemption is difficult because some states want to be more strict than the national standards, but self-driving car creators want to be in multiple states without different standards. There will be some back and forth to strike a balance, he said, adding that he wants to make sure the bill defines standards for testing facilities. Testing and design will be addressed on the federal level, while states will be responsible for things like registration and licensing, Doyle said.
Cybersecurity is critical because each self-driving vehicle has a software package, and those can be hacked to change the cars’ actions, Doyle said. While he said he has great faith in the CMU team working on these vehicles, there will be self-driving cars made elsewhere that will have to meet the same security standards.
“Safety is a big part of this, too,” Doyle said, adding that public confidence will largely depend on how safe the vehicles are.
Steps for the future
Republican Tim Murphy also stressed the need to think about the future.
“While we are still years away from any major changeover, it is important to prepare for the future today,” he said in a statement emailed to The Incline.
Murphy’s district is close to the work being done in Pittsburgh and he stressed the area’s expertise. His 18th District includes areas surrounding the city, such as the South Hills and other places in Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
“Pittsburgh has always been a national leader in research, robotics and innovation, and now we are continuing to push forward as the nation’s neurocenter for self-driving vehicles. In the city where this new and developing technology was first tested, exciting opportunities are emerging, specifically for populations that have been left behind by traditional public transportation,” Murphy said.
He said the first step was “allowing automakers to move forward putting self-driving vehicles on the road.” And Murphy praised the draft legislation for “clarifying the federal and state roles for regulation, enhancing public safety through testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles and technologies, and creating a new committee to examine mobility access for the disabled community and senior citizens.”