Innovation

Congress will vote to speed up self-driving car deployments next week

The US House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill to speed the deployment of fully-autonomous cars and stop states from banning these vehicles.

Next Wednesday, the US House of Representatives will vote on a bill to speed the deployment of fully-autonomous cars and stop states from banning self-driving vehicles, according to a Reuters report.

The bill would allow car manufacturers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year. This cap would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years. It was passed unanimously by a House panel in July, Reuters reported.

While manufacturers and tech companies with autonomous vehicle investments have pushed for new federal regulations making it easier to release self-driving cars, some consumer groups have expressed concern about the safety of doing so.

"Self-driving vehicles stand to make our transportation system safer and more efficient. Advancing this technology to road-ready requires government policy that encourages continued testing and development," House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement. "This formula is the foundation for what makes America the most innovative country in the world."

SEE: Our autonomous future: How driverless cars will be the first robots we learn to trust (PDF download)

It's likely that Congress will approve legislation before the end of 2017, according to automakers and tech companies cited by Reuters.

Currently, federal rules ban fully-autonomous cars with no human controls on US roads. This new proposal would require manufacturers to submit safety assessment reports to regulators; however, it would not require them to gain pre-market approval of autonomous technologies.

Manufacturers would also have to demonstrate that their self-driving cars are "at least as safe as existing vehicles" to gain the exemption, Reuters noted. States could also still set their own rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance, and safety inspections, but would not have jurisdiction over self-driving car performance standards, according to the report.

"Congress can bring a host of benefits to Americans by helping to bring self-driving vehicles to our roads as quickly as possible," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement.

Meanwhile, consumer safety groups have sought changes to the proposal, including giving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fast access to crash data, as well as increased funding to oversee self-driving cars, Reuters reported.

The US Department of Transportation unveiled the world's first autonomous vehicle policy in September 2016, setting performance standards for self-driving cars and offering guidelines for how states can legislate autonomous vehicles. However, many questions around issues such as insurance, safety, and cybersecurity still remain.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Next Wednesday, the US House of Representatives will vote on a bill to speed the deployment of fully-autonomous cars and stop states from banning self-driving vehicles

2. The bill would allow car manufacturers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.

3. It's likely that Congress will approve legislation before the end of 2017.

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Image: Tesla

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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