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LAB urges changes to Senate bill regulating autonomous vehicles

Published March 20, 2018

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The League of American Bicyclists, responding to the first U.S. pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle, is supporting changes to Senate legislation that would regulate the self-driving cars and trucks.

Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV hit and killed Elaine Herzberg Sunday night as she was pushing her bike across a street in Tempe, Arizona. 

The League on Tuesday expressed concern "that these vehicles are being deployed without having to first prove their ability to recognize and respond to people biking and walking in our streets." It urged LAB members to pressure Senators to add "vision test" wording to Senate Bill 1885: AV START Act, a bill attempting to bring some regulatory oversight to autonomous vehicle deployment.

"Our goal is to add a requirement to the AV Start bill to have a regulated 'vision test' for autonomous vehicles that would be third-party tested. The current version of the bill is lax on third-party testing. We hope our members and supporters ask their Senators to add safety performance standards that autonomous vehicles have to pass to be on the road," said Caron Whitaker, the Leagues' vice president of government relations. The League is adopting the "vision test" language proposed by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

In Europe, thanks to pressure from the European Cyclists Federation, cars wishing to pass the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) not only have to see a cyclist, but their autonomous braking systems must engage to avoid or minimize impact in third party testing. The ECF also is lobbying that autonomous systems limit vehicle speed to the legal limit.

"We also know that most data shows that detecting bicyclists is one most difficult problems Automated Driving Systems technology faces and testing for bicyclists lags behind other ADS technology tests," Whitaker added.

It should be noted that Herzberg was pushing her bike laden with shopping bags and was not darting in and out of traffic. And Herzberg is not the first cyclist to be hit and killed by an autonomous vehicle. Fred Heppell was struck from behind and killed while he was out cycling last November in High Shincliffe, U.K. by a Tesla Model 2 90D with autopilot and autonomous safety functions.


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