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Soliday continuing fight for autonomous vehicle safety standards

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, says he will work to restore the autonomous vehicle safety standards removed Tuesday from House Bill 1341 by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation.

INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, is not giving up on his goal of ensuring that any autonomous vehicles operated on Indiana roads are at least as safe as those driven by humans.

A Senate committee on Tuesday, prompted by opposition to Soliday's plan from vehicle manufacturers and computer companies, scaled back many of the provisions in House Bill 1341 that Soliday believes are essential to Hoosier safety.

In particular, the revised legislation scraps a proposed requirement that every autonomous vehicle have a responsible occupant with a driver's license prepared to manually operate the vehicle if the autonomous system fails.

Vehicle manufacturers claim such a mandate is both technologically unnecessary and would prevent the blind and disabled from taking advantage of new mobility options offered by computer-driven vehicles.

State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation, said the changes were "an honest attempt to try and come to a resolution that relieves the concerns of the auto industry and still preserves the intended safety aspects of the bill."

Soliday contends the manufacturers simply are trying to avoid having to comply with state regulations after successfully lobbying to prevent federal regulations on autonomous vehicles.

"I can't ask Hoosiers to accept no standard for unproven technology, I just can't do it," Soliday said.

The altered measure was approved by the committee, 7-1. It likely will be debated next week by the full Senate.

Soliday said if the proposal passes the Senate, he plans to take it to a House-Senate conference committee to revive the safety components that were in the House-backed version of the legislation.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.