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All the talk about self-driving car technology and autonomous cars feels like it’s slowed down in recent years, doesn’t it? There were mentions of Level 3 and Level 5 self-driving when automakers shared plans for 2030, but the major focus point of all of them is to grow their current lineup with electric vehicles (EVs) and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). A future closer than self-driving mobility solutions, EVs and BEVs have been growing in popularity, and many automakers have already made the shift towards electrified options and all-electric vehicles. Self-driving goals may have feel a little silent, but companies are still working towards these endeavors, such as Plus testing self-driving trucks in China and Aurora Innovation launching new self-driving services, both within the last year. The greatest hurdle is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which stood in the way of certifying the Waymo as suitable for retail when it comes to autonomous vehicle safety standards. Members of Congress are starting to tackle this with the SELF DRIVE Act and support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In 2017, 2020, and again in 2021, senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced the SELF DRIVE Act to create a federal regulatory framework that would hopefully advance the development of autonomous vehicles in the U.S. With only startups that need funding and investors to get any further in their goals of self-driving tech and prototypes, big names in the auto industry need to be able to act and further this next step in mobility, but when giants like ABC, Inc. can’t break the NHTSA, Congress and the Senate need to get involved, and that’s where the topic sits today.
With U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich), Latta formed the Congressional Autonomous Vehicle Caucus in August 2022. A meeting between members of a legislative body, the purpose was to educate Members and staff on autonomous vehicle technology and how it can improve the lives of people today, as well as how it can improve the safety and accessibility of roadways for personal and public transportation. There has been a lot of pushback against the SELF DRIVE Act, with data from the NHTSA in June reporting 367 crashes involving self-driving technology and advanced driver assistance systems in the last ten months. Although the self-driving in question is most likely Level 3 and Level 4, which does not take the responsibility off of the driver to drive safely, the opposition takes the data at face value. When it comes to Level 5 and higher self-driving tech that can take complete control of the vehicle, that is another issue that needs to be addressed altogether.
“For generations, the United States has paved the way in innovative vehicle technology. Autonomous vehicles are the next step forward. In order for this technology to succeed, we must educate, advocate, and create a framework to implement their use [and continue to safely expand throughout the country]…This technology [can] improve the lives of millions of Americans while simultaneously providing people living with disabilities and seniors increased mobility and independence.“ – Latta
Giving the elderly and people with disabilities was a huge selling point during the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show for multiple automakers, so such claims are not far off. Understandably, most may want to crack the formula on the perfect EV before expanding into other technologies. Regardless, if automakers are already seeking this out, then now may be the time for Congress and the Senate to cooperate and come to a conclusion on how to safely design, produce, and implement self-driving technology on the roadways in mass.
How do you feel about self-driving cars? Has your position on them changed in recent years? Join the discussion now on NowCar social media.