Legislation Aims to Safeguard Persons with Disabilities in Autonomous Vehicles

Rarity: Politicians Taking Action Through Legislation

When it comes to cars, the US government is not known for taking a proactive stance. Many new technologies and services are introduced at a rapid pace, well before corresponding laws are put into place. However, two American Representatives are defying this trend by proposing a new legislation that aims to safeguard individuals with disabilities who use autonomous ride-hail services. The US government has not established a reputation for being particularly proactive when it comes to the automotive industry. Often, advancements in technology and new services are brought to market rapidly, far outpacing any relevant legislation. However, two members of Congress are breaking from this pattern by introducing a new bill with the intent of protecting people with disabilities who utilize self-driving ride-hailing vehicles.

The wording of the legislation is unexpectedly concise, yet its aim is to provide legal protection for individuals with disabilities who do not possess a driver’s license. This protection would apply in situations involving the vehicle, such as being stopped by law enforcement or being in a collision. The proposed Autonomous Vehicle Accessibility law would disallow states from granting licenses that hinder a disabled person’s ability to utilize a Level 4 or 5 self-driving ride-sharing platform like Waymo.

According to the legislation, a State cannot grant a driver’s license for driving or utilizing a Level 4 or Level 5 automated driving system (ADS) vehicle in a way that unfairly favors those without disabilities over qualified individuals with disabilities. Motor1 has contacted Stanton’s office for clarification on whether this law would apply to all passengers in an autonomous vehicle, regardless of their disability status. If a response is received, this article will be revised accordingly.

The latest legislation has garnered approval from both US Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Greg Stanton (D-AZ), showcasing bipartisan support. It is no shock that Stanton, given Arizona’s role as a proving ground for over twelve self-driving car enterprises testing their vehicles on public streets, is in favor of the bill.

The office of the individual stated, “AVs do not easily fit into the conventional legal frameworks for both driver and passenger, forcing policymakers to adopt a new way of thinking.” Last November, residents of California were informed that law enforcement was unable to penalize autonomous vehicles for violating traffic laws. Citations can only be given to cars with a physical human driver present in the driver’s seat.

The legislation also appropriates $5 million for researching methods to enhance the accessibility of public transportation systems for individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, it aims to explore solutions for safely utilizing autonomous ride-hailing vehicles by those with special needs.

Source: US Rep Greg Stanton


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