Why Congress Needs to Act Decisively to Advance the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles

Manufacturers are constantly developing and delivering exciting new innovations that improve and advance the way we live, work and connect. Today, the evolution toward autonomous vehicle (AV) technology can empower individuals with disabilities to have new mobility options, save lives and create 21st-Century efficiencies throughout the entire economy.

The recently released report from KPMG, “Autonomy delivers: An oncoming revolution in the movement of goods,” highlights the opportunity for AV technology to change the way consumers shop and purchase goods. AV technology can improve access to transportation and mobility for many people and improve roadway safety for all, especially as human error factors into approximately 94 percent of all crashes on U.S. roads.

As a member of the Coalition for Future Mobility, the NAM has long supported commonsense legislation to modernize the regulatory process and prevent a patchwork of duplicative state requirements from unnecessarily limiting interstate commerce. This would support the safest deployment and adaptation of AV technology.

At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, NAM Chief Operating Officer Todd Boppell had the opportunity to discuss potential roadblocks to the deployment of this life-changing technology as part of KPMG’s 9th Annual Automotive Executive Forum Panel. This year, the focus was on “Autonomous Vehicle Regulation: What the Future Holds,” and the conversation addressed the ongoing debate about how effective the government can be at regulating this high-tech industry.

Many are concerned that bureaucrats in Washington, as well as state and local governments, could take an approach that is overly burdensome, with too much red tape and conflicting regulations that prohibit AV technology from moving forward. The NAM submitted comments this week to the Department of Transportation outlining the necessity of smart regulation to guide the safe deployment of AV technology.

The good news is that in September 2017, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation, the SELF DRIVE ACT (H.R. 3388) to achieve this goal. Additionally, the Senate started work on similar legislation, the AV START Act (S.1885). In 2017, the AV START Act passed out of a key Senate Committee.

Despite bipartisan support, however, the AV START Act has not received a vote in the Senate, and now the clock is ticking. A new Congress will begin in January with new members and new legislation, so if the Senate doesn’t pass the AV START Act this month, AV legislation will have to restart the entire legislative process.

Time is running out! The Senate must act now to send the AV START Act to the president’s desk.

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