The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (SubDCCP), chaired by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), today held a hearing to discuss 14 drafts of self-driving legislation that will capitalize on this technology’s potential to save lives, clarify state and federal roles, and foster advancement in innovation. Today’s discussion provided constructive feedback on how members can further refine language to promote the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles and continue expanding economic opportunities for Americans.

The underlying theme of the hearing was the importance of ensuring consumer safety on roadways, and there is no doubt that self-driving cars can play a big role in reducing fatalities. “Last year there were over 40,000 fatalities and more than 2 million injuries on our nation’s highways,” said Chairman Latta. “Our goal today is to enact the right policies to encourage self-driving technologies that can drastically reduce those numbers.  We have a real opportunity to address this problem.” He concludes with, “[t]his isn’t the government saying you have to get in a self-driving car. This is government making sure that industry can innovate in response to our changing lives.”

Also explaining many of the societal benefits of self-driving vehicles, and the new opportunities this technology creates, was Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He stated in his testimony, “Self-driving technologies will potentially save thousands of American lives annually, addressing a large portion of roadway fatalities and crashes associated with human error. Cars with self-driving features also offer huge quality of life benefits –access for the disabled and elderly; time saved by being driven rather than driving so the commuting time can be spent on more productive activities; and the increased freedom that comes from quicker trips due to less congestion.”

John Bozzella, President and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, spoke to the need for “Congress and the Administration to ensure that there is a consistent national approach to automated vehicle policy.”  He stressed the need for uniformity as a patchwork of state regulations “will lead to conflicting rules that could delay deployment of life-saving technologies.”

Echoing a need for certainty within the industry, and the ways in which this would benefit the U.S. from a global stand point, was Tim Day the Senior Vice President of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center at the US Chamber of Commerce. He stated, “To be competitive in the global self-driving vehicle market, the United States needs to make sure that innovators face a single set of standards as opposed to a patchwork of standards from different states. Without preemption, we risk impeding our innovators and ceding our leadership in this industry.”

“We too join you in wanting to make sure that this innovation takes place in America first,” said Full Committee Chairman Walden. “We’ve been on the cutting edge, and we can continue to be on the cutting edge. But the long and short of it is that this new technology has great opportunity to save lives. I’ve seen it first hand in the vehicle my wife has…I believe we are on the cusp on something big, and I think that future generations will look back and say, ‘What a bunch of barbarians. You drove yourselves?’”

Offering more detailed feedback on the draft legislation, was The Honorable David Strickland, Counsel at the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets and Partner at Venable LLP. He offered, “We appreciate that the Committee’s draft legislation creates a number of advisory councils comprised of non-governmental experts to assist the Secretary and NHTSA in their considerations of self-driving vehicles and their societal impacts.”

Following the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Latta and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) held a bipartisan press conference to discuss their efforts on this draft legislation and their commitment to working together to increase bipartisan support.

Source: The Energy and Commerce Committee, Washington