The US government isn’t known for being very proactive when it comes to cars. New technologies and services often arrive at lightning speed long before the law catches up, but a pair of US Representatives are bucking that trend by introducing a new bill designed to protect people with disabilities in autonomous ride-hail vehicles.
The bill’s text is surprisingly brief, but it intends to legally protect passengers who do not hold a driver’s license due to their disability if something happens with the vehicle, like being pulled over by police or being involved in an accident. The Autonomous Vehicle Accessibility would prohibit states from issuing licenses that would prevent someone with a disability from using a Level 4 or 5 autonomous ride-hail service like Waymo.
“A State shall not issue a motor vehicle operator’s license for the operation or use of an ADS-equipped vehicle operating at Level 4 or Level 5 in a manner that discriminates on the basis of disability against a qualified individual with a disability,” the bill reads. Motor1 has reached out to Stanton’s office to see if the bill could protect anyone in an autonomous vehicle regardless of disability. We'll be sure to update this article if we hear back.
The new bill has bipartisan support from US Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Greg Stanton (D-AZ). Arizona is a testbed for more than a dozen autonomous vehicle companies that are evaluating driverless cars on public roads, so Stanton’s support comes as little surprise.
According to his office, “AVs don’t fit neatly into traditional legal constructs of driver and passenger, and require policymakers to start thinking differently." Californians learned last November that police could not issue tickets to driverless cars that break the law. Law enforcement officers can only issue citations for vehicles with real human drivers in the seat.
The bill also allocates $5 million to study how to improve public transportation infrastructure for individuals with disabilities and investigate ways for people to access these autonomous rode-hail vehicles safely.