The pressure on the Biden administration to put some muscle behind legislation supporting the advancement of self-driving vehicles continues to ratchet up.
Dan Ammann, the top executive at startup Cruise LLC, implored President Joe Biden to lend his support to legislation introduced by Sens John Thune and Gary Peters to raise the limits on the number of self-driving vehicles on the road in the U.S.
Cruise is a subsidiary of General Motors — Ammann the former president before shifting to the top spot at the San Francisco-based company — that will begin producing an autonomous shuttle-style vehicle next year at a GM’s new Factory Zero plant in Detroit.
In April, Thune and Peters began readying potential legislation to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the power to eliminate the limits on the number of autonomous vehicles, reports Reuters, and initially exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer.
That would increase to 80,000 within three years, and NHTSA must certify that the exempted self-driving vehicles are at least as safe as human-driven vehicles, the agency noted. The bipartisan pair have attempted to get this legislation off the ground since 2017.
Bills and amendments, despite getting bipartisan support, have fallen short each year as unions and plaintiffs attorneys have rallied support against the efforts. Now, Thune and Peters are seemingly getting some additional support from the companies developing the technology.
Sending a letter
Ammann sent a letter to Biden May 17, according to Reuters, which received a copy of the letter, saying the current restrictions are slowing the development of the technology so that they can be built in large numbers.
He pointed to another country that many consider the leader in electric and autonomous vehicle technology.
“China’s top down, centrally directed approach imposes no similar restraints on their home grown AV industry,” Ammann wrote, according to Reuters. “We do not seek, require or desire government funding; we seek your help in leveling the playing field,” he said, citing research that AVs are “estimated to create and sustain 108,000 jobs over the next five years.”
Ammann, in his letter to Biden, said that “without your support and congressional action to revise these self imposed barriers, the U.S. AV manufacturing industry will lag, AI development will stall, and our foreign competitors will race ahead.”
Cruise asked California for — and received — approval from the State of California to carry passengers in its self-driving vehicles. Not the full-size shuttles that Cruise expects to employ in the future, but instead the small Chevrolet Bolt is doing the trial runs.
Additionally, GM’s shared some of its technology with Honda for use in Japan. Cruise, which has generated about $7.25 billion in funding since it was founded in 2013, hoped to launch an autonomous ride-sharing service last year, a move postponed for unexplained reasons. A fully driverless vehicle could help anchor such a service while also giving the company — which is majority controlled by General Motors — a significant cost advantage compared with existing ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
Cruise, which has generated about $7.25 billion in funding since it was founded in 2013, hoped to launch an autonomous ride-sharing service last year, a move postponed for unexplained reasons. A fully driverless vehicle could help anchor such a service while also giving the company – which is majority controlled by General Motors — a significant cost advantage compared with existing ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.