Some Democrats and safety advocates say the bill does not do enough to ensure the safety of self-driving cars and threatens the ability of states to oversee autonomous vehicles. Supporters of autonomous vehicles, who say they can save lives, believe the bill is needed to speed their adoption and overcome regulatory barriers that were written for human-driven vehicles.
“It’s a long shot but we have successfully knocked down a lot of the barriers,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who chairs the Commerce Committee, said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office late Tuesday. “It seems like every time we clear one they put another one up.”
Thune said negotiations have been taking place in recent days with staff for a handful of Democratic senators who have raised some safety concerns. “If we can demonstrate that we have the votes to pass something here, we can get the House on board,” Thune said.
He added that while the measure was still “alive. it’s not real alive.”
The pair have been working for more than a year to try to win approval of the bill by the Senate.
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing major automakers said Wednesday, “Without legislation from Congress, lots of important work that would benefit Americans slows down… We will keep pushing for legislation to pass.”
The Republican-led U.S. House unanimously approved a measure in September 2017, but it has been stalled in the Senate for over a year. A Senate bill would allow automakers to each sell up to 80,000 self-driving vehicles annually within three years if they could demonstrate they are as safe as current vehicles.
General Motors in January filed a petition with U.S. regulators seeking an exemption to use vehicles without steering wheels as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019 but has receive no decision.