Self-Driving Cars Legislation

Issue

Congress aims to finalize legislation to advance self-driving vehicles by preempting certain state laws that could force automakers to build different self-driving vehicles for different states. NADA has strongly urged Congress to retain a state’s traditional role to provide consumer protections, and license and regulate vehicle commerce within its own borders as applied to self-driving vehicles. Historically, the federal government has preempted only state laws that impact vehicle design, construction and safety.

Background

In October, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved S. 1885 by a voice vote.  While the bill clarifies that state laws regarding the sale, distribution, repair or service of self-driving vehicle are not preempted, the bill lacks a technical amendment to fully ensure that state vehicle licensing and franchise laws protecting the rights of dealers and consumers are not nullified inadvertently. NADA expects this technical issue will be corrected before Senate passage to ensure these state vehicle laws are fully protected. The House passed H.R. 3388, the “SELF DRIVE Act” in September, which included bipartisan language to clarify that Congress does not intend to preempt state vehicle licensing/franchise laws as applied to self-driving vehicles. 

Ensuing the correct federal/state relationship is critical, as States have traditionally had the right to license and regulate the distribution, sale and service of vehicles in their state, based on the states’ desire to protect consumers and businesses that provide price competition, local jobs, and significant local and state tax revenue. These rights are reserved to states under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.

For decades, state vehicle franchise laws have included important consumer protections and regulated the disparity in size and power between local dealers and multi-national automakers to help level the economic playing field. Such protections for state residents are especially important, as there are new risks, as well as opportunities, associated with self-driving technologies, and new entrants rapidly entering the auto market.

Traditionally, the federal government has preempted only state laws that impact vehicle design, construction and safety features to ensure uniform rules across all 50 states. Auto dealers support this defined and well-established federal role for self-driving vehicles.

Key Points

  • Congress should enact a balanced federal preemption (as in H.R. 3388/S. 1885) that enables states to continue to exercise their right to license and regulate the distribution of vehicles. 
  • H.R. 3388/S. 1885 properly clarifies that state laws regarding the sale, distribution, repair or service of AVs are not preempted to preserve state vehicle franchise laws protecting the rights of dealers and consumers. 
  • S. 1885 should include a technical “conforming” amendment before Senate consideration to fully ensure that state vehicle licensing and franchise laws are not preempted. 

Status  

H.R. 3388 passed the House in September, and Senate sponsors of S. 1885 are seeking agreement to bring the Committee-passed bill to a vote on the Senate floor. Congress must ensure final self-driving legislation fully and explicitly preserves state vehicle licensing and franchise laws. 

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March 13, 2018