On to the Senate
Self-driving cars have been on the horizon for the past few years, as companies like Tesla and Waymo have been focused on bringing autonomous vehicles to the market. Even though self-driving tech has been improving, it seems perpetually a few years away. Now, the U.S. House just passed legislation that could accelerate the development of self-driving cars by allowing them to be driven in all 50 states.
The House bill, called the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act (SELF DRIVE), exempts automakers from some safety standards that aren’t relevant to autonomous vehicles and permits selling up to 25,000 cars per year without needing to meet current auto safety standards. That cap would increase to 100,000 over the next three years.
This legislation, if it passes the Senate, would open up many states that currently do not allow autonomous cars to be driven on their roads. The legislation blocks states from banning the technology or passing unnecessarily restrictive legislation curtailing it, which means automakers have much more free rein to experiment.
Some consumer advocate groups are worried about the potential risks involved with exempting so many autonomous vehicles from safety standards. The California-based advocate group Consumer Watchdog said in a statement that “The autonomous vehicle bill just passed by the House leaves a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers.”
The Senate is currently debating a similar version of this bill, and it’s likely that a combined version will end up on the President’s desk sometime soon. If this bill passes, self-driving vehicles will be able to spread across the U.S. quite quickly, and we can only hope that the world will be ready.