The Pennsylvania State Legislature is currently considering S.B. 965, legislation that would allow companies to test self-driving vehicles on Pennsylvania highways without a driver available to take over in an emergency. This bipartisan bill, which was introduced with support from Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian, is sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Johnstown).
Proponents of this legislation believe it will make Pennsylvania a leader in the testing and manufacturing of autonomous vehicle technology, creating new jobs and generating revenue for the state. Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian commented on the proposed legislation, stating that this bill could allow the state to become “a hub for the transformative technology of the future.”
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) is asking Pennsylvania shops to contact their state representatives using this link to urge them to consider extending existing vehicle safety inspection laws to the deployment of autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving vehicles are an exciting part of the future of transportation. However, these vehicles must be held to the same standards, as vehicles on the road today, to ensure that they are safe for drivers and road users – both when they are deployed and long after they are in-use.
ASA Chairman Fred Hules II said, “ASA supports the development and implementation of autonomous vehicles. However, autonomous vehicle legislation should not pass without proper vehicle safety provisions. New technology needs to be regularly inspected by qualified repair professionals to ensure that vehicle systems are working properly to keep drivers and other road users safe.”
In Pennsylvania, vehicles are required to get an annual vehicle safety inspection. In multiple studies, including a 2009 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, vehicle safety inspections have been proven to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities and improve vehicle safety on the roads. Subsequent state and university research has supported this same view. Autonomous technology is intended to reduce user error and improve safety while driving. However, these autonomous safety systems must be regularly inspected to ensure that they continue to function as intended after the vehicle is in-use.
Existing vehicle safety inspection laws should be extended to cover any new autonomous vehicle technology that is deployed on public roads, both in Pennsylvania and in all other states considering similar legislation. These inspections ensure that vehicles with advanced automotive technology are safe after they are in-use.