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Congress Pressured to Revive Self-Driving Vehicle Regulation Debate

Advocates urge Congress to act on self-driving vehicle regulation, citing competitive disadvantages faced by American manufacturers. Safety and liability concerns prompt caution, as the debate resurfaces on expanding testing and sales of autonomous cars and trucks.

Credits : AP Photo

Amidst mounting concerns for the future of self-driving vehicles in the US, industry advocates have called upon Congress to address the long-stalled regulatory debate. Major auto manufacturers, represented by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, plead for a comprehensive autonomous vehicle (AV) framework, fearing that the lack of progress is hampering industry success.

While some members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee show enthusiasm for accelerating AV research and testing, others urge caution, stressing the need to address safety and liability issues. The resurrection of a 2017 AV regulation bill that previously passed the House but stalled in the Senate is under consideration.

At present, AV manufacturers can only test a maximum of 2,500 self-driving vehicles, pending permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Industry advocates argue that these limits hinder industry growth at a critical juncture. The NHTSA has been reviewing General Motors' petition to deploy 2,500 vehicles from its Cruise AV unit for street testing and ride-hailing for over a year.

Proposed new legislation includes exemptions for manufacturers to deploy thousands of autonomous vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards.

A pivotal point of contention revolves around liability in case of accidents caused by malfunctioning AVs. Industry proponents assert that accidents involving self-driving vehicles are exaggerated, highlighting the machines' superior reliability compared to human drivers. Conversely, Rep. Kelly Armstrong insists that the human driving model, flawed as it may be, offers clarity on blame and financial responsibility in accidents.

General Motors' Cruise CEO, Kyle Vogt, maintains that autonomous vehicles experience significantly fewer collisions, with a 92% reduction in crashes caused by AVs compared to human error.

However, skeptics, including former NHTSA safety adviser Missy Cummings, challenge the safety claims made by the industry, casting doubt on the data presented. Cummings argues that analysis of available data contradicts the industry's assertions, indicating that Robotaxis from Cruise are eight times more likely to crash than humans and Waymo's autonomous vehicles are four times more prone to accidents than human drivers.

In this complex debate surrounding AV regulation, Congress faces the challenging task of striking a balance between promoting technological progress and safeguarding public safety. As the push to expand testing and sales of autonomous cars and trucks gains momentum, a comprehensive AV framework remains the key to the industry's future success.

  • Advocates call on Congress to revive the long-stalled debate on regulating self-driving vehicles.

  • Concerns over competitive disadvantages prompt industry plea for an expanded AV testing and sales framework.

  • Safety and liability issues caution some members of Congress against rushing AV research and testing.

  • Proposals include exemptions for AV manufacturers to deploy thousands of vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards.

  • Industry claims of AV safety are contested by skeptics, who challenge the reliability of the data presented.

  • Congress faces the challenge of balancing technological progress and public safety in the evolving AV industry.

Source : AP News

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