U.S. Congress Is Making Progress on Self-Driving Car Legislation

A bipartisan agreement in the works aims to speed up the rollout of autonomous cars.

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In a rare event of Congress agreeing on something, it looks like there’s some good progress being made on self-driving car legislation in Washington. It would replace state-by-state rules and with one federal set of regulations. The idea is to make it easier for automakers to test their autonomous tech across the country. An official plan should be unveiled in the next month or two.

Oregon Representative Greg Walden described the bill in progress as a “good bipartisan agreement” saying “We're getting very close. I think it's a good package. We've put a lot of work into it.” After riding a self-driving Audi on Tuesday, South Dakota Senator John Thune told Reuters, “We're not there yet but we are getting closer,” regarding the proposal he’s working on with Michigan Senator Gary Peters.

The rules currently in place are fine for conventional cars equipped with some self-driving tech, but they’re not exactly future proof. Currently, every car for sale in the US is required to have a steering wheel and a gas pedal, which autonomous car developers like Waymo are trying to get changed to prevent future roadblocks when fully autonomous cars are ready for the market.

"The key thing is to make sure we stay in the lead on the innovation that there aren't unnecessary roadblocks in the way, balancing that with safety," said Representative Walden. He went on to say that in the future, people will look back and make fun of us motorists saying, “‘What a bunch of barbarians - they drove themselves? Are you kidding me? And look at how many died every year and they thought that was acceptable?’”

That might sound like bad news for anybody who enjoys driving, but everyone getting on the same page about self-driving car regulation is an important step forward in the future of mobility. Don’t worry, I think we’re still a long way off from human-driven cars going extinct.