Securing America's Future Energy

SAFE Applauds Senate Committee Approval of AV START Act of 2017 and Duckworth-Schatz Amendment

Contact: Bridget Bartol | 202.461.2361 |

Washington, D.C.—Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), released the following statement in support of the AV START Act of 2017, and the Duckworth-Schatz amendment requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to study the energy impacts of autonomous vehicles (AVs).

“SAFE applauds the Commerce Committee’s approval of the AV START Act. We praise and thank Chairman Thune and Senator Peters for their leadership in crafting and introducing this legislation. The Committee’s action moves our country one step closer to realizing a clear policy framework to advance the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs). This technology will improve roadway safety, increase transportation access and independence for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and advance fuel efficiency and fuel diversity—ultimately reducing our dangerous dependence on oil. However, there is much more to be done as this bill does not address the critical issue of commercial vehicles,” said Diamond.

“As this bill awaits a vote on the Senate floor it is vital that strong preemptive protections are maintained, in addition to guards against barriers to access for Americans with disabilities, seniors and injured veterans. Exemption provisions are similarly vital to ensuring that this technology can advance in a way that enables innovation and improves our transportation system as a whole,” Diamond continued. “Certain special interest groups are working to prevent the timely deployment of AV technology that will better lives for all Americans—advocates of a safer transportation future must work together to actively counter these efforts.”

SAFE also strongly applauds the inclusion of the Duckworth-Schatz amendment requiring the DOT to commence a self-driving vehicle study no later than 60 days after date of enactment. The study would focus on the impacts of self-driving vehicles on energy security, transportation infrastructure, mobility and fuel consumption in both urban and rural areas.

As the legislation awaits a vote on the Senate floor to progress it to conference, SAFE firmly supports maintaining key provisions, including:

  • Preemption and licensing language that supersedes the current patchwork of state regulations and prohibits states from using licensing provisions that prevents access for Americans with disabilities.
  • Leveling the playing field between established automakers and new entrants such as technology and transportation network companies. Policy neutrality for technology and business models is essential to unleashing the full potential of American innovation.
  • Establishing a working group to advise the Secretary on consumer education and acceptance—a vital component of ensuring the ultimate success of AV technology.
  • Establishing an AV Technical Safety Committee with broad industry and stakeholder participation to achieve consensus-based performance standards that promote both safety and innovation.
  • A clear and expeditious exemptions process to allow for development of innovative vehicles designs that improve transportation access, fuel efficiency, and fuel diversity.
  • Inclusion of the Duckworth-Schatz Amendment to study the fuel economy impacts of AVs.

A side-by-side comparison of the approved House bill and the Senate Committee bill can be found here.

Since 2015, SAFE has been on the forefront of AV thought leadership and has provided policy recommendations and testimony to state and federal lawmakers, agencies, and the administration.

In addition to the safety benefits, autonomous vehicles are expected to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, which currently powers 92 percent of our transportation system, and is supplied and controlled by countries that do not share U.S. strategic interests. SAFE analysis shows that approximately 80 percent of autonomous vehicle models employ an alternative powertrain, demonstrating the natural link between AVs and fuel choice.

About Securing America’s Future Energy

Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America’s dependence on oil. Near-total dependence on petroleum in the transportation sector undermines the nation’s economic and national security, and constrains U.S. foreign policy. To combat these threats, SAFE advocates for expanded domestic production of U.S. oil and gas resources, continued improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, and transportation sector innovations including electric vehicles, natural gas trucks, and autonomous vehicles. In 2006, SAFE joined with General P.X. Kelley (Ret.), 28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, to form the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and former military leaders committed to reducing the United States’ dependence on oil. Today, the ESLC is co-chaired by Frederick W. Smith and General James T. Conway (Ret), 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.


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