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AV Advocates to Congress: Act on Self-Driving Cars

Regulatory inertia on self-driving cars is putting manufacturers in the U.S. at a disadvantage, but Congress can help by expanding automakers’ ability to test and ultimately sell the vehicles, industry advocates said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, according to ABC News.

What’s going on: “Currently [automated vehicle] manufacturers can deploy a maximum of 2,500 self-driving vehicles for testing, provided they have permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. AV advocates have complained that the limits represent a bottleneck that is holding back the growth of the industry at a crucial time.”

What’s being requested: One of the bills considered during Wednesday’s markup is an updated version of a 2017 measure on AV regulations that passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

  • AV advocates point to data that shows reports of accidents involving these cars are exaggerated and the cutting-edge safety technology can be more reliable than human drivers in avoiding crashes.
  • The issue of liability in case of an accident, however, remains a major point of contention in legislative progress. “Each one of these [crashes] is still going to be subject to a plaintiff’s lawyer, an insurance company and a defense lawyer,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) said. “And until we’ve figured that out, this is just a science project.”

Safety data: An analysis of the first 1 million miles of AV use by Cruise AV—the self-driving vehicle unit of General Motors—showed the cars to have a significantly better safety record than human drivers, CEO Kyle Vogt said on an earnings call this week.

  • There were 54% fewer collisions and 92% fewer crashes in which the AV was at fault, Vogt said.

The last word: “The expansion of AVs into our national transportation system is an opportunity to lead by enhancing safety on our roadways, improving transportation mobility and increasing efficient goods movement across our strained supply chains,” said NAM Director of Transportation Policy Ben Siegrist.

  • “Manufacturers are on the cutting edge of vehicle technology research and development, and improving the federal regulatory landscape is a necessary step to grow the American AV industry into a global economic engine.”
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