Congress May Bar States From Setting Self-driving Car Rules

U.S. House Republicans expect to introduce bills later this week that would bar states from setting their own rules for self-driving cars and take other steps to remove obstacles to putting such vehicles on the road, a spokeswoman said.

The legislative action comes as major automakers are joining forces with auto suppliers and other groups to prod Congress into action.

Last month, a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing on a Republican draft package of 14 bills that would allow U.S. regulators to exempt up to 100,000 vehicles a year per manufacturer from federal motor vehicle safety rules that prevent the sale of self-driving vehicles without human controls.

Blair Ellis, a spokeswoman for the committee, said on Monday it was likely that legislation would be introduced this week and a formal hearing on the bills would occur next week.

Republican U.S. Representative Robert Latta said last month he hoped to win committee approval of a bipartisan legislative package by the end of July.

The draft measures would bar states from setting self-driving rules and prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from pre-approving self-driving car technologies.

Democrats say the NHTSA must play a more aggressive role in mandating self-driving car safety.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG, Toyota Motor Corp and others, and the Association of Global Automakers, representing major foreign automakers including Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Corp, are forming the Coalition for Future Mobility to press Congress to act.

The group, which includes the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, National Federation of the Blind and Securing America’s Future Energy, a group of corporate officials and retired military leaders, plans to begin airing radio ads on Tuesday portraying the legislation as “liberating innovation for self-driving vehicles.”

GM, Alphabet Inc., Tesla Inc., and others have been lobbying Congress to pre-empt rules under consideration in California and other states that could limit self-driving vehicle deployment.

The administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama last year unveiled voluntary guidelines on self-driving cars. President Donald Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has said she plans to quickly update those.

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