Autonomous vehicles, subject of Pennsylvania bill

A bill progressing through the Pennsylvania General Assembly is introduced to modernize the state’s vehicle code. Specifically, the measure would allow driverless testing and deployment of self-driving cars and trucks on Pennsylvania roads.

State law now prohibits driving vehicles on state roads without a human driver behind the wheel inside the vehicle.

Driverless vehicle authorization

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 8-5 on Tuesday, Oct. 18 to advance a House-approved amended bill to legalize and regulate driverless vehicles in the state.

The law project, HB2398, would allow curling up with a driver in the lead vehicle. An unleaded vehicle would be allowed to operate with an automated driving system activated.

A Platoon General Operations Plan must be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for review.

Additionally, the bill details procedures following any traffic incident involving autonomous operation. Proof of insurance coverage of at least $1 million would also be required.

Troubleshoot supply chain issues

Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, said her bill would help the state compete with nearly half of all states that have changed their rules to accommodate the self-driving vehicle industry.

“For years, PA has been on the cutting edge of technology, which has allowed these vehicles to be tested and continued research and development. Other states have taken notice and have begun to change their legislative environment to encourage this industry to invest and grow in their states,” Oberlander said. “Now we are behind 22 other states that have expanded their laws to allow additional deployment in this sector.”

She said HB2398 “balances concerns and challenges, as well as opportunities, and should send a strong message that Pennsylvania is open to this type of high-tech venture.”

“We welcome these jobs and investments in our community, but we are also committed to the safety of our citizens.”

Oberlander adds that the industry would also help solve current supply chain issues around the delivery of food, medicine and building materials. She adds that this will ultimately save lives and improve safety.

Concern expressed

Minority Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, told the committee he recognizes that self-driving vehicles are “the way of the future and the way things evolve, whether we like it or not. “, but that he opposes the bill because of concerns about how it will affect the state’s labor industry.

“This bill does not guarantee workers in Pennsylvania a seat at the table,” Flynn said.

Senate Transportation Committee Majority Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria, said lawmakers worked with stakeholders to come up with a workable product.

He acknowledged that there was still a lot of work to be done on the issue.

The bill is now heading to the entire Senate. If approved there, HB2398 would return to the House for consideration of Senate amendments before it could proceed to the governor’s office. LL

More landline news coverage from Pennsylvania.

Jessica C. Bell