WASHINGTON — The legislative effort to bring more certainty to autonomous vehicle development faces an increasingly uncertain future.
Nearly a year ago, a House panel easily approved a bill, the Self Drive Act, liberalizing rules for testing and deploying self-driving vehicles, including provisions that would exempt more vehicles from rules designed for conventional vehicles, and preempt state regulation of the vehicles. A similar bill, the AV START Act, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously the following month.
But despite the broad bipartisan support, progress has been stalled ever since. Senate backers are exploring ways to bring the AV START Act to a vote, but prospects are dim as the Senate calendar fills up with other Republican priorities.
That's frustrating House members who see the inaction delaying the adoption of potentially life-saving technology and eroding the U.S. advantage in r&d. Automakers and technology companies working on autonomous systems say they need regulatory certainty and consistency before fully committing to r&d efforts in the U.S.
"Time is running out" as other regions of the world move aggressively to invest in driverless vehicle technology, Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, chairman of the Energy and Commerce digital-commerce subcommittee, said in a recent interview. "We want to make sure that the technology that is out there is U.S. technology and we're developing it here."
"If we don't do this," he added, "you're going to have 50 states and the District of Columbia doing their own thing."