WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would speed development of self-driving cars by letting companies like Google, Uber and Honda deploy up to 100,000 of them each year without obtaining advance approval for their autonomous vehicle technologies.
Bowling Green GOP Rep. Bob Latta, who authored the bill, said widespread deployment of self-driving vehicles would improve consumer safety by reducing traffic-related fatalities and injuries, increase the mobility of seniors and others who have difficulty driving, clarify federal and state regulatory roles, and stimulate job growth and economic opportunities.
“With the number of auto part manufacturers in Ohio, self-driving cars will be a job creator and economic driver for years to come,” Latta predicted.
Latta’s bill would require vehicle makers to submit safety assessment reports to regulators, and develop cybersecurity measures to safeguard drivers’ data.
It included language championed by Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan that would require new cars to come with a rear-seat occupant alert meant to keep parents from accidentally leaving children in cars.
“No child should endure the tragedy of dying while trapped in a hot vehicle,” said a statement from Ryan. The unfortunate reality is that even good, loving and attentive parents can get distracted. Studies have shown that this can happen to anyone, anywhere.”
Consumers Union applauded passage of Ryan’s provisions to prevent child deaths, but expressed concern that other parts of the bill could “open regulatory gaps and fail to adequately protect consumers from vehicle safety hazards.”
The group recommended that the experimental vehicles approved by the legislation not be exempted from crash protection standards for occupants. It also suggested a reduction in the overall number of vehicles that could get safety exemptions.
The AFL-CIO’s transportation trades department said autonomous vehicles could have “a profound impact on jobs and wages,” of the millions who make middle-class wages as commercial drivers.
“Adequately addressing the impact driverless vehicles will have on jobs, wages, and safety will require more deliberation and public input from all stakeholders, including transportation labor,” said a statement from Larry I. Willis, who heads the union’s transportation trades department.
The U.S. Senate has conducted several hearings on self-driving vehicles. Members of the Senate Commerce Committee are drafting legislation, but nothing has been introduced.