"Our future depends on what we do now," Davis said. "We need to have a clear regulatory structure in place to be able to continue to support AV innovations."
The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, formerly the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, argued that AVs will improve transportation equity and create jobs but that federal inaction risks America's leadership role in the technology.
"The AV industry is creating jobs and providing opportunities for workers with a wide array of expertise and educational backgrounds, including many jobs that do not require a college degree," Ariel Wolf, general counsel for the association, told the panel.
Members also heard testimony from self-driving startup Aurora, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, labor unions and other experts who urged Congress and the Biden administration to work together and act on legislation that would create a national framework for AV deployment and regulation.
"Without regulations, government oversight, consumer information and industry accountability, the safety of all road users is in peril," Advocates President Cathy Chase said.
Advocates — a consortium of consumer, medical, public health and safety groups as well as insurance companies — has urged lawmakers to advance the group's "AV tenets," a guide for crafting a bill that prioritizes safety, equity, accessibility and sustainability.
"We need to know what's happening on our roads, and the way to accomplish safety is through regulation," Chase said.
Previous attempts by Congress to pass bipartisan legislation governing AVs have stalled, leaving developers and other stakeholders to navigate a patchwork of state and local laws.
"Congress needs to get this right," said Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn. "I think there's a happy medium between letting tech companies rule our streets and applying over-restrictive government regulations on industry."