U.S. Senate to Hold Self-Driving Car Hearings

can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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The U.S. Senate is holding hearings on November 20 to discuss self-driving vehicles. Reuters reports the focus of the hearings will be on deployment and testing. Congress and top U.S. safety officials will work together to figure out best to safely get these vehicles onto roads without stifling development.

  • The U.S. Senate is holding hearings on November 20 to discuss self-driving cars.
  • Safety experts from the transportation industry will be on-hand.
  • The goal is determining a safe way to get self-driving cars onto public roads.

The hearings are the day after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meets to discuss the cause of a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving vehicle back in March 2018. Already-released NTSB documents indicate the Uber vehicle wasn’t programmed to detect jaywalkers.

One of the perks of a self-driving car – enjoying your morning coffee. (Photo: Getty images)

A panel of experts.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt is one of the safety officials expected at the hearings and may be using the findings from the Uber accident to make recommendations. National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA) James Owens and U.S. Transportation Department policy official Joel Szabat will also be in attendance.

Congress has spent two years trying to decide if federal regulations on self-driving cars should be revised and is concerned in the limited NHTSA oversight of these systems. At the same time, NHTSA proposed revising rules that ban self-driving cars without steering wheels and pedals as far back as October 2018.

Automakers have opinions on the topic, too, with General Motors petitioning NHTSA in January 2018 for a waiver to deploy autonomous ride-sharing fleets without steering wheels or pedals. In the time since, the company’s self-driving unit, Cruise, announced a delay in its original deployment date of 2019 in the interest of further testing.

WHY THIS MATTERS

While testing self-driving cars in controlled environments provides valuable data, it’s no substitute for the information provided during real-world testing. At some point, self-driving cars need to operate without a human or they’re not self-driving. Deciding how to get to that point safely is a complex issue that lawmakers have yet to solve.


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can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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