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Republicans Looking to Establish Self-Driving Vehicle Rules

Move would eliminate a state’s ability to establish different laws.

by on Jul.11, 2017

U.S. House Republicans plan to eliminate a state's ability to establish different autonomous driving rules than the federal government.

We’re with the government and we’re here to help … with those pesky rules for autonomous vehicles anyway.

It appears Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to ensure states cannot establish their own rules for self-driving vehicles with a new bill expected to be unveiled later this week.

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The move comes after the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing on a package of 14 draft bills that would allow U.S. regulators to exempt as many as 100,000 vehicles per manufacturer per year from federal safety rules preventing the sale of autonomous vehicles without operating controls, such as a steering wheel or brake pedal, according to Reuters.

The move is aimed at expediting the development of autonomous vehicles, although it’s unclear what kind of restrictions would be enacted on these types of vehicles, which are similar to Google’s now defunct bubble car test models that only had a red button to shut down the car in the event of a problem.

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The legislative action comes as automakers are partnering with auto suppliers and other groups to push Congress to take action, Reuters noted. It’s likely that the legislation, which is slated to be introduced this week, would get a formal hearing next week.

Republican U.S. Representative Robert Latta said last month, according to Reuters, he hoped to win committee approval of a bipartisan legislative package by the end of July. In addition to eliminating a state’s ability to establish rules, the new bill would also prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from pre-approving self-driving car technologies.

House Democrats want NHTSA to play an aggressive role in mandating self-driving car safety. The draft bill has the backing of several groups representing domestic and foreign automakers, which are also finding ways to provide input.

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The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and others, and the Association of Global Automakers, representing major foreign automakers including Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Corp., are forming the Coalition for Future Mobility.

The group, which includes the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, National Federation of the Blind and Securing America’s Future Energy, a group of corporate officials and retired military leaders, plans to begin airing radio ads on Tuesday portraying the legislation as “liberating innovation for self-driving vehicles,” Reuters noted.

Much of this is aimed at California. GM, Alphabet Inc. (i.e. Google), Tesla Inc. and others have been trying to persuade Congress to pre-empt rules California is mulling as well as other states that may follow its lead.

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The gap between the federal and state governments began to close last year at the end of the Obama administration, which rolled out a series of voluntary guidelines to serve a map about the rules for self-driving vehicles. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has said she plans to update them.

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