As part of appropriations legislation that funded the government for Fiscal Year 2019, Congress inserted the following language directed at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding autocycles and the definition of a motorcycle: “The Committee recognizes the growth of three-wheel light-duty vehicles, also called Autocycles, as a method of passenger transportation. Under Federal regulations, these vehicles are currently classified as motorcycles though they have different physical and operational characteristics than traditional automobiles and two-wheel motorcycles. 38 states have now recognized this difference by establishing new regulations and definitions for Autocycles. The Committee is concerned that a patchwork of laws and inconsistent regulations now exists, absent a Federal standard for Autocycles, thereby causing confusion and hindering the growth of this emerging industry. The Committee directs NHTSA to conduct research on the appropriate safety standards and existing state and Federal regulations of Autocycles and report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of this Act.” After over a year, NHTSA released its report to Congress and it was at best disappointing. In response to the first directive to “research appropriate safety standards for autocycles,” NHTSA passed the buck saying, this report does not set forth any new NHTSA determinations of “appropriate” standards for autocycles. The research this would entail cannot be addressed within the scope of this report as it would involve longer-term activities such as data collection and analysis, test procedure development, vehicle testing and evaluation, and cost-benefit assessment The second directive to report on “existing state and Federal regulations for autocycles” was answered with this from NHTSA: “Other than describing the current Federal minimum safety standards applicable to autocycles, this report does not set forth any new NHTSA determinations of “appropriate” standards for autocycles.” It is disappointing that NHTSA sidestepped around the requests from Congress for information on this topic. However, we are, at a minimum, encouraged that Congress has raised the issue of autocycles with NHTSA. The question of autocycles and their place within the greater framework of motor vehicles is not going anywhere. We at the MRF will continue to probe the federal government on this topic and seek a more appropriate category for these increasingly popular autocycles. To see a full copy of the 18-page report submitted to Congress, click here.
This week the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held a hearing on autonomous vehicles (AV). During the three-plus hour hearing, the room was packed with representatives of the AV industry as well as advocates for highway safety and consumer protection. The panel of witnesses represented the following organizations: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, American Association of Justice, National Federation of the Blind, Consumer Technology Association and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following opening remarks, “Safety and deployment must come hand in hand — we cannot have one without the other. Because ultimately, public acceptance of self-driving cars depends on their reliability and safety. Troubling safety incidents, regulatory black-holes, and lax oversight threaten to disrupt this critical balance and the future of this technology itself.” Ranking member Greg Walden (R-OR) also took a shot at the trial lawyers, represented by the American Association for Justice, chiding them for asking "for more changes in the Senate despite the deal we had here in the House" and for not supporting the deal, even when lawmakers ceded to their provisions. AAJ's State Affairs Counsel Daniel Hinkle, however, insisted his group was trying to keep car-makers accountable by ensuring that injured parties have the right to sue and that the federal government doesn't bigfoot the states on regulations. During the 115th Congress, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the SELF Drive Act yet the Senate version AV Start Act stalled in committee after an intense fight with the trial lawyers on the ability to break arbitration clauses with manufacturer’s to allow consumers to be able to file lawsuits where information could be available to the public. After the hearing,Congressman Michael Burgess Co-Chair of the House Motorcycle Caucus and attendee at the hearing stated: “Increasing safety on our roadways involves harmonizing autonomous vehicle operation with other modes of transportation, including motorcycle riders. Motorcyclists enjoy the thrill of the ride and will continue riding alongside autonomous vehicles in the future. It is important that autonomous vehicle technology recognize, categorize, and accurately respond to motorcyclists to ensure the safety of all riders and passengers. I look forward to continued development of safe autonomous vehicles that effectively share the roadway with all users.” You can watch the playback of the hearing and read the witnesses submitted opening statements on the Energy and Commerce Committeewebsite. The following day the committee released additional sections of potential legislation known as a “discussion draft.” One crucial part of the draft language dealt with crash collection data stating: Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise the crash data collection system to include the collection of crash report data elements that identify whether any vehicle involved in a crash is a highly automated vehicle or a vehicle performing partial driving automation, including— the level of automation; and whether the automated driving features were engaged at the time of the crash. The MRF believes having a reliable crash data collection system is imperative to any autonomous vehicle legislation. The public should have the opportunity to understand the capabilities of this new technology and be made aware of any risks that may exist. As you may remember, the MRF, AMA, and Harley-Davidson teamed up to submit feedback to both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction for AV legislation on the priorities of motorcyclists in future legislation. The crash data collection was listed under those priorities. You can read the full joint letter from August 2019 by clicking