Sen. Wayne Langerholc

Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. (35 District) discusses the state budget with members of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A course-changing “roadmap” to enable testing and deployment of automated vehicles in Pennsylvania is on its way to becoming law, according to state Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr.

Langerholc, R-Richland Township, introduced a bill this week that he said won’t just set the course for driverless commercial vehicles to take to the road – but also enable western Pennsylvania, a pioneer in the growing industry, to continue to lead the field.

“Today we send a message to the nation and the world that the commonwealth will be a leader in this emerging industry – and that our commonwealth will be open for business,” he said.

Langerholc introduced the bill in Pittsburgh. He was joined by PennDOT leaders and school officials from Carnegie Mellon University, an industry innovator whose success has already spurred hundreds of tech-driven automotive jobs in western Pennsylvania.

Studies project the highly automated vehicle (HAV) market will climb to $1 trillion in 2026 and $7 trillion in 2050 as the trucking industry and others turn to technology to address widespread staffing shortfalls and growing demands.

“We dare to dream today. We dare to stay ahead of the curve, to never settle for complacency,” said Langerholc. “We recognize the future, and it starts here and starts now.”

But there are also decades-old driving laws that need to be amended to allow the industry to move forward here in Pennsylvania, Langerholc noted. Current laws require a driver to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.

“We have an opportunity to make transportation safer, smarter, cleaner, more equitable and more efficient than ever,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, whose department would serve as the lead state agency overseeing the vehicle’s testing and commercial deployment.

Senate Bill 965 also incorporates standards from the Society of Automotive Engineers and best practices from 39 states that implemented legislation or executive orders on HAVs.

Langerholc was joined by senators from both parties at Carnegie Mellon’s Mill 19 testing facility, including Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh, and Pat Stefano, R-Fayette.

The bill now moves to the state Senate Transportation Committee, which Langerholc chairs, providing Pennsylvania with a chance to keep on pace with states such as Florida and Texas that have already approved similar measures, the senator said.

“We’re in a race to ensure America’s leadership in a global market that will be $7 trillion by 2050 – and jobs for workers of all backgrounds,” Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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