GM & Toyota (& Others) To Tell US House Panel That Self-Driving Car Safety Rules Need To Be Relaxed

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GM and Toyota officials (and others) will be speaking with a US House panel on Tuesday with the intent of spurring a relaxation of current automotive safety rules for the use/testing of self-driving vehicles, according to recent reports.

According to the two companies, the current safety rules will need to be relaxed in order to develop the technology at a reasonable rate.

“Without changes to those regulations, it may be years before the promise of today’s technology can be realized and thousands of preventable deaths that could have been avoided will happen,” explained Mike Abelson, vice president of global strategy at GM, in written testimony released Monday. “It is imperative that manufacturers have the ability to test these vehicles in greater numbers.”

This news was accompanied by an announcement that Senator Gary Peters (a Michigan Democrat) and Senator John Thune (the Republican chairman of the Commerce Committee) are now exploring legislation that “clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology.” The plan is apparently to jointly propose a bill sometime this year.

Aside from automakers, Lyft is also chiming in, with Lyft public policy Vice President Joseph Okpaku planning to say that Lyft’s goal is: “to operate a pilot in a major city this year that will permit consumers to enjoy, for the first time, a Lyft in an autonomous vehicle.”

Reuters provides more:

“Under current law, the US Transportation Department can exempt up to 2,500 vehicles in a 12-month period from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle rules.

“Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said last month she is preparing legislation that would lift the existing cap.”

“Gill Pratt, chief executive of the Toyota Research Institute, will tell the committee, according to advance testimony: ‘It is important that the federal government begin looking beyond testing to deployment of these systems’ and should update vehicle safety standards ‘to address the handful of standards that are inconsistent with or incompatible with autonomous vehicle technology.'”

As a reminder here, there’s not much in the way legally that would stop companies from offering full self-driving features in vehicles that also feature human controls (as Tesla apparently plans to do within the near future), but deployment of fully autonomous taxis is something that isn’t likely possible within the current legal framework.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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