WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The implementation of longstanding proposed legislation aimed at accelerating the use of autonomous vehicles continues to pose considerable challenges for the U.S. Congress.
During a recent Wednesday hearing, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, voiced concern about China’s advanced pace in the autonomous technology field. “China is significantly progressing in its mission to pioneer the innovation and application of this technology,” Rodgers said. She further expressed a lack of confidence in allowing the Chinese Communist Party to dictate industry norms or entrust them with data and individual rights.
Both Republicans and several Democrats have expressed a desire for quick measures, fueled by worries that China might eclipse the United States in the rollout of driverless vehicles. However, this rush for legislation has sparked concerns amongst safety groups, legal representatives for plaintiffs, and labor unions.
Frank Pallone, the leading Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, cautioned against a hurried application of outdated policies. “We cannot simply revive a six-year-old legislation and disregard significant issues that have surfaced in recent years…. Liability gaps are starting to surface. The impact on the workforce is becoming increasingly evident,” he said during the hearing.
Proposals that could potentially allow manufacturers to bypass current auto safety standards and deploy thousands of vehicles have kept the autonomous vehicle legislation at a standstill in Congress for over half a decade.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on July 12 that a decision regarding a petition filed by General Motors’ self-driving tech division, Cruise, is impending. The petition seeks permission to annually introduce up to 2,500 self-driving vehicles without human controls, the current legal maximum.
Supporters argue that self-driving vehicles could significantly decrease traffic fatalities, extend transportation options for the disabled, mitigate parking issues in overcrowded cities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
However, John Samuelsen, President of the Transport Workers Union, voiced workers’ concerns that “mainstream AV developers are blatantly planning to hastily introduce driverless vehicles on our roads and into our public transit systems without safety norms or adequate safeguards in place.”
John Bozzella, the CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing major car manufacturers, stressed to the panel that inaction from Congress could lead to “our nation being reliant on foreign resources in a future shaped by others.”