Congress plans to step in to end confusion over self-driving cars

The House and Senate are expected to introduce complimentary bills as soon as Tuesday meant to reduce confusion between the states and federal government when it comes to regulating self-driving cars.

The House is expected to drop its bill first, introduced by Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, who serves as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s digital commerce panel.

The Senate bill will be introduced some time later by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

These cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, or AVs, blend advances in digital communications with that of vehicle mobility to enable newer cars and trucks to navigate highways and city streets without the need of a driver. Advocates of the technology point out its advantages when it comes to lowering fuel consumption by making driving more efficient and also more safe.

But confusion between states and the federal government on the role of regulating these new cars could imperil the technology by creating a patchwork of state-by-state policies governing AVs, according to advocates.

The House and Senate bills look to restore Washington leadership on regulation in creating a clear path for states to follow regarding the regulation of these vehicles.

A legislative blueprint released last week by the Senate commerce committee said its bill will “clarify the responsibilities of federal and state regulators to protect the public and prevent conflicting laws and rules from stifling this new technology.”

The legislation will respect the “existing relationship between federal and state regulators and their current separation of authority,” while at the same time creating the “necessary targeted updates” to regulations that pose challenges.

The House bill is expected to include measures to specifically prevent states from regulating the design, or creating roadworthiness standards for AVs, according to the group…

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