Feinstein blocks bill that would loosen self-driving car regulations

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has for months blocked a bill championed by some of California’s biggest tech companies that would cut regulations to get self-driving cars onto roads sooner — and she’s not backing down, she said Wednesday.

The fight has pitted the 25-year incumbent against one of the most powerful industries in her state, at a time when she’s facing her most vigorous election challenge in years.

The bill, known as the AV START Act, would loosen federal regulations for the development of self-driving vehicles and speed up the process for getting them on the road. Companies would be allowed to test autonomous vehicles — and even market them to consumers — before new federal safety regulations on the technology are written. Meanwhile, states would be blocked from adopting tougher rules on self-driving cars.

Proponents say removing regulatory roadblocks and allowing wider testing on public roads is key to allow the autonomous vehicle industry to continue to grow. A similar bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously in September.

But Feinstein and a handful of other senior Democratic senators have argued that self-driving car technology isn’t ready for primetime. They’re holding the bill up in the Senate, blocking proponents’ efforts to approve it through unanimous consent. So far, Senate leaders haven’t been willing to spend the time needed for a debate on the Senate floor that would send it to a vote, which could take up to a week.

“Until new safety standards are put in place, the interim framework must provide the same level of safety as current standards,” Feinstein and four Democratic Senate colleagues wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, which was released to the Bay Area News Group. “Self-driving cars should be no more likely …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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