The fate of long-pending self-driving car legislation in Congress remains uncertain, as China’s aggressive efforts to dominate this technology pose a significant challenge. Concerns have been raised about China’s ambitions and the potential risks of data and individual rights falling under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. This has prompted both Republicans and some Democrats to call for swift action to prevent China from surpassing the United States in autonomous vehicle deployment. However, opposition from safety groups, plaintiffs’ lawyers, and labor unions has created hesitations surrounding the proposed legislation.
Representative Frank Pallone, a key Democrat, stressed the importance of addressing new issues that have emerged in recent years, as the existing legislation, over six years old, no longer adequately addresses emerging liability loopholes and workforce impacts.
Congress’s attempts to pass autonomous vehicle legislation have faced obstacles for years. The proposed measures would grant automakers exemptions to deploy tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles without meeting current auto safety standards.
Amidst the legislative standstill, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing General Motors’ Cruise self-driving technology unit’s petition to deploy up to 2,500 self-driving car annually without human controls, which is the maximum allowed under the current law.
Proponents of autonomous vehicles argue that they can significantly reduce traffic-related fatalities, improve mobility access for disabled individuals, alleviate parking congestion in cities, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
However, critics, like Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen, express deep concerns about deploying driverless vehicles without adequate safety standards or failsafes, particularly in public transit systems.
On the other hand, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation CEO, John Bozzella, representing major automakers, emphasizes the urgency for congressional action to avoid relying on foreign sources in the future. Without timely action, the nation risks relinquishing control over its automotive industry and technological advancements to other countries.