Government

The US Has Made Its Biggest Step Yet Towards Autonomous Cars

And safety advocates aren't happy.

In an era of deep partisan divide, the US House of Representatives has found common ground in, of all things (aside from Hurricane Harvey relief), autonomous cars. Reuters reports the House has unanimously approved "a sweeping proposal to speed the development of self-driving cars...and barring states from blocking autonomous vehicles." This is the first major piece of legislation passed that’s meant to accelerate the development and subsequent arrival of self-driving cars without direct human control.

What’s kind of startling is the mere fact that individual states cannot do anything to prevent autonomous vehicles from being on the road. However, this bill is not law yet, as it will now be sent to the Senate where it could, and likely will, undergo some changes. It will then be sent back to the House where those changes will have to be ratified. Only afterwards can it be sent to the president to sign into law, or to veto outright. The current legislation allows automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 driver-less vehicles without meeting current auto safety standards in the first year. You read that right. And get this: that cap will increase over three years to 100,000 vehicles annually.

Not surprisingly, automakers, companies like Apple and Waymo, and even advocates for the blind praised the House bill. At least one consumer advocacy group expressed concern over potential safety issues. However, automakers will still be required to submit safety reports to regulators, but here’s the kicker: automakers won’t need pre-approval to test new, and possibly unsafe, self-driving technologies. As far as technological development goes, this bill is ideal. For those concerned about safety or with deep hatred for self-driving cars in general, this bill could be cause for concern.

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