Driverless Industry Surges Forward While Hill Hiccups on Regulation


Sen. John Thune was test-driving a car of the future when he ran into a very 20th-century problem: traffic.

In 2016, Washington’s local laws forced Thune’s autonomous-capable Chrysler sedan to motor into neighboring Virginia before it could show off the no-hands navigation. That’s where the South Dakota Republican got stuck in a tide of commuters.

“Evidently driverless cars are not going to help our traffic jams,” he said. Thune was an early advocate for autonomous vehicles, but his experience among a fleet giving Congress test rides that day is a good example of why Capitol Hill needs to set uniform standards for driverless cars before the technology becomes more widespread, he said.

Two years later, Thune and other lawmakers are working to address the patchwork of state regulations that could hamper the commercial introduction of driverless transport and make it difficult for them to ferry passengers over state borders.

The bipartisan bill, called the AV START Act and co-sponsored by Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, has been the subject of a flurry of recent negotiations among lawmakers and outside groups hoping for a vote on the Senate floor.

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