Advocates rally for self-driving car bill

Advocates for creating federal standards for autonomous vehicles rallied on Tuesday to spur lawmakers to move quickly on legislation to roll out and test the emerging technology.

Representatives of automobile manufacturers and stakeholder groups argued forcefully for the need for federal rules to create standards around autonomous vehicles at a forum on Capitol Hill.

The push comes as lawmakers are circulating draft legislation on self-driving cars among stakeholders after long delays but with no bills formally introduced in Congress.

The advocates, brought together by the Coalition for Future Mobility, warned of the danger of falling behind the rest of the world in creating and testing these cars, and the worry that states would act without federal guidance, creating a patchwork of laws.

Ron Thaniel, the vice president of legislative affairs at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, noted that states are creating regulations around self-driving cars “because they have to.”

“I have not heard a single state say they want to do this,” Thaniel said. “This is an election calendar, we have a short calendar next year, and we need to move forward, and if we don’t, we’re going to have more and more states developing regulations around automated vehicles. It’s time to get in place a federal framework.”

The state of play: The pleas by stakeholders for Congress to move forward on legislation come amid signs of some progress on Capitol Hill.

The Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are currently in the process of circulating draft language for a new bill to address autonomous vehicles that is similar to a previous bill that was passed by the House in 2017.