House to vote on self-driving car legislation next week

(Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls and bar states from blocking autonomous vehicles, congressional aides said.

The bill, which was passed unanimously by a House panel in July, would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, a cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.

Automakers and technology companies including General Motors Co and Alphabet Inc’s’ self-driving unit Waymo have been pushing for new federal rules making it easier to deploy self-driving technology. Meanwhile, some consumer groups have sought additional safeguards.

The bill will be voted under fast-track rules that do not allow for amendments. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has been working on similar legislation but has not introduced a bill.

“Self-driving vehicles stand to make our transportation system safer and more efficient. Advancing this technology to road-ready requires government policy that encourages continued testing and development,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, said in a statement. “This formula is the foundation for what makes America the most innovative country in the world.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacters, a trade group, said in a statement that “Congress can bring a host of benefits to Americans by helping to bring self-driving vehicles to our roads as quickly as possible.”

Republicans Representatives Greg Walden and Robert Latta said in a joint statement the “vote will pave the way for the safe testing, development, and deployment of self-driving cars across the U.S.”

The issue has taken on new urgency since U.S. road deaths rose 7.7 percent in 2015, the highest annual jump since 1966.

Automakers and technology companies believe chances are good that Congress will approve legislation before year end….

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