New legislation that would speed up the integration of self-driving cars on public roads will hit the House floor next Wednesday. The bill would bar states from blocking self-driving vehicles and allow car companies to sell 25,000 autonomous cars in the first year, 50,000 in the second year, and 100,000 units in the third and fourth years. This slow integration of self-driving cars will allow us to see how they behave in the real world in the hands of consumers and see what works and what doesn’t work.
"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, R-CA, said in a statement according to Automotive News. "This formula is the foundation for what makes America the most innovative country in the world."
The bill passed a House panel unanimously back in July and it’s looking like it should be able to pass the House, the Senate, and get President Trump’s signature by the end of the year fairly easily. One of the reasons the bill is popular and has bipartisan support is the 7.7 percent rise in U.S. road deaths in 2015, the highest jump since 1966. Adding autonomous cars to our roads will almost certainly help in reversing that fatal trend.
This doesn’t mean autonomous cars will hit the streets unchecked. Car manufacturers will have to prove that self-driving cars are at least as safe as existing cars and they need to submit safety assessment reports to regulators. As for states rights, the states can still make their own rules in terms of registration, licensing, safety inspections, and insurance, but they can’t set performance standards for self-driving cars or say autonomous cars aren’t allowed within their state borders.