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League leads coalition asking for AV Restart

Last year, the League of American Bicyclists was one of many organizations that opposed the AV START Act. We opposed that bill, which would have created a federal framework for automated vehicle regulation because we believed it did not do enough to protect the safety of all road users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, and other people who use our streets.

AV START contained no guarantee that automated vehicles would have to prove their ability to safely interact with people biking, walking, or otherwise existing outside of a car. Our ask was–and remains–a ‘vision test’ requiring manufacturers to prove the ability of autonomous vehicles to accurately detect, recognize, anticipate, and safely respond to the movements of all road users, including bicyclists.

In opposing AV START, we found many other organizations are also concerned about legislation that prioritizes innovation over the needs of the public. We all agree on the potential benefits of automated vehicles, but also agree that the public – and the federal government in particular – must be active in ensuring that automated vehicle regulations promote positive benefits and minimize risk. By working together, through research, testing, and regulations, the private industry and federal, state, and local governments can realize the full benefits of automated vehicles.

Over the last several months we have met regularly with other organizations concerned about vehicle safety, vehicle accessibility, and vehicle automation. Engaging with a diverse set of organizations has surfaced the many promises of automated vehicles and the need for proactive regulation. We are glad that we could work with so many groups and on Friday we submitted a letter joined by 47 groups sharing our proactive vision for how a federal automated vehicle framework can enhance safety, accessibility, and communities.

Our vision of a future based on responsible automated vehicle regulation prioritizes:

Safety – Putting safety first means establishing the scope and timeline of performance standards in the first AV legislation. For people outside of automated vehicles, a “vision test” in which they are seen is the minimum performance standard that is acceptable. With comprehensive safety standards, AVs can deliver on their promise of eliminating the 94% of crashes that are due to human error.

Accessibility – One of the great selling factors of AVs is providing mobility to people who are unable to use cars and are left behind in our auto-dominated transportation system. Ensuring the accessibility of AVs is essential to making sure that AVs deliver on their promise of increased mobility and do not further entrench inequities in transportation.

Local Control – State and local governments are the laboratories of democracy where communities can ensure that AVs serve community needs and obey community behavioral standards. By preserving local control, cities and states will be able to require AV providers to address equity, access, and community needs as they have done with bikeshare and scooter share systems. 

Consumer Protection – Information on new technology is essential to evaluating and understanding it. It can take years to get basic consumer information on existing technology and we can’t afford to wait to require information on AV technology.

Data Sharing – Currently, we lack data on how many people bike and walk, near misses by motor vehicles, and many other things that could inform our work and the work of governments to make safer streets. By requiring data sharing, AV legislation can harness the massive amount of data created by AVs for public good.

Resources for NHTSA – Today, NHTSA is falling behind other in vehicle safety and is not testing automated technologies that could save lives today – like Automated Emergency Braking. AV legislation must give NHTSA the mandate and resources to ensure that AV systems are safe and transparently tested in a way that ensures the public’s trust in those systems.

Research – To harness AV technology for the public good will require research that helps manufacturers, governments, and the public understand the limits and benefits of AV technology. In addition to and as part of a strong starting framework, funding for independent research is essential.

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