House paves the way for self-driving cars

US lawmakers passed a bill aimed at speeding deployment of self-driving vehicles such as this Kia Niro Triathlete Inspired autonomous concept car shown last year at the Los Angeles auto show

This doesn't mean that these cars won't be held to safety standards; companies that participate will need to secure permits before they can put their self-driving cars on the road and will regularly submit safety assessments to regulators. Nevertheless, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department runs the NHTSA, will be revealing the updated guidelines at an event next Tuesday in MI, according to Reuters.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at clearing the path for deployment of self-driving vehicles by requiring consistent regulations across the 50 states.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, an association that includes automakers Ford and Volvo as well as tech firms seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles such as former Google auto unit Waymo, Uber and Lyft, welcomed the passage.

States will still be able to set regulations on registration, safety inspections, licensing, and insurance.

Automakers and tech companies have warned of a potential patchwork of rules, where 50 states deliver 50 different sets of rules for self-driving vehicles.

It's likely that these new guidelines will take inspiration from the call that many automakers made last November, asking Trump to rethink and change self-driving guidelines that the Obama administration issued last September. "With this legislation, innovation can flourish without the heavy hand of government", Ohio Republican Bob Latta said on the House floor before the voice vote. It would also allow automakers to deploy 25,000 self-driving cars in the first year, a number that would rise to 100,000 over a three-year time span. That said, allowing such vehicles to be tested on public roads even without meeting the same safety standards as the other cars on the road could be a recipe for disaster. As per the bill, self-driving cars must demonstrate that they are as safe as existing vehicles. Early reports indicate debate over whether the Senate version should include provisions related to commercial trucks - a topic absent in the House bill. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road deaths rose almost 8 percent in 2015, the largest annual jump in 50 years. What it does is permit vehicle companies to test up to 100,000 autonomous cars on public roads all across America, even if they do not meet local and state safety standards.

"The future of the automobile is here and this bill will give the automotive industry the tools it needs to completely revolutionize how we will get around for decades to come", said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The department confirmed late Tuesday it plans to unveil the new guidelines next week.

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