Legislation recently introduced in the state Senate would create guidelines for the testing and commercial deployment of highly automated vehicles (HAVs) in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 965 would allow the operation of HAVs with or without a driver on board. Under a 2018 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation policy, a licensed driver must be seated in the driver’s seat at all times and have physical control of the vehicle. The bill allows a driver to operate the vehicle either from the driver’s seat or remotely. The vehicle could also be operated exclusively by the automated driving system.
In other states where states are testing HAVs, the vehicle comes with lead and tow vehicles with human drivers and safety control technology.
Educational institutions and companies specializing in advancing driverless technology are the only groups, under the bill, allowed to test and commercially deploy HAVs.
The bill says the Pennsylvania Department of Technology is the governing body, with the Highly Automated Vehicle Advisory Committee performing ongoing evaluations. Additionally, the bill incorporates international standards from the Society of Automotive Engineers as well as best practices from 39 states that have implemented HAV-focused legislation or decrees.
The intent of the bill is to put Pennsylvania on par with Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states that are creating a path for stand-alone testing and commercial deployment.
State Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-Bedford / Cambria / Clearfield Counties), Chairman of the Senate Transport Committee, introduced the bill. It has been referred to committee for consideration.
Langerholc and other government officials announced the bill at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green in Pittsburgh.
“We dare to dream today. We dare to stay one step ahead, never settle for complacency, ”said Langerholc. “We recognize the future, and it starts here and begins now – a future that won’t leave Pennsylvania behind, but rather set the benchmark for the industry. Today’s unveiling of this law takes the seed planted by these bona fide companies, and not far from here, and nourishes it. I look forward to the growth and the fruits it will bear.
CMU President Farnam Jahanian also spoke at the event, noting that collaboration between government, academia and industry has propelled the state’s autonomous vehicle industry.
The autonomous vehicle industry will reach around $ 7 trillion worldwide by 2050, he estimated.
“While the economic impact of VA promises to be extraordinary, it also holds remarkable potential to improve the quality of life for citizens across the country and help solve important societal challenges,” Jahanian said.
The benefits potentially include reductions in carbon emissions, improvements in road safety and infrastructure maintenance, increased opportunities for independent living, and technological implications spanning logistics, sustainability and healthcare.
Major regional VHA companies are increasingly testing outside of Pennsylvania, according to a recent study.