With the help of a Florida congressman, on Wednesday, the U.S. House backed a proposal allowing car companies to test 100,000 self-driving cars on public roads.
The House passed the “Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act-- already billed the "SELF DRIVE Act”--on voice vote. The proposal has been championed by auto manufacturers but has drawn fire for allowing self-driving cars on the roads without meeting local and state safety regulations.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, brought out the bill at the end of July. On Wednesday, Latta noted more than 40,000 Americans died and more than 2 million more were injured in 6 million traffic accidents last year. Citing stats that showed 94 percent of those accidents were the result of human error, Latta insisted self-driving cars can help boost safety.
“The passage of the SELF DRIVE Act is an important milestone in the development, testing, and deployment of self-driving cars,” said Latta. “Autonomous vehicle technology has the possibility to reduce deaths on our nation’s roadways by the tens of thousands, and accidents by the millions. At the same time, seniors and those living with disabilities would find their mobility greatly increased by self-driving cars. Today’s passage of this legislation is the result of countless meetings, discussions, and hearings where stakeholders, federal officials, and members of Congress shared their perspectives. Our region is leading the way in the development of this technology with sites like the Transportation Research Center right in our backyard. With the number of auto part manufacturers in Ohio, self-driving cars will be a job creator and economic driver for years to come.”
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee with Latta, was the only co-sponsor of the bill from the Sunshine State. Latta’s proposal included parts of Bilirakis’ “Addressing Community Challenges from Emerging Self-Driving Systems (ACCESS) Act” which would make the U.S. Transportation Department set up an advisory council to see how self-driving cars can help seniors and the disabled.
At the end of July, Bilirakis explained why he had introduced his proposal.
“Simple things most of us take for granted, such as getting to work, going to the doctor, a trip to the grocery store, or across town to visit family, can be difficult undertakings for some,” Bilirakis said at that time. “Self-driving cars could put seniors and those with disabilities back in the driver’s seat of their lives, providing them with greater independence and mobility. I’m pleased we made progress today on my bill, the ACCESS Act, to help communities unlock the full potential of autonomous vehicle technology.”
On Wednesday, Bilirakis took to the House floor to support Latta’s bill and he cheered its passage.
“Today, the House passed the SELF DRIVE Act, which will improve transportation safety, stimulate economic growth and ensure we are embracing the full potential of technological advances in the automotive industry with respect to self-driving cars,” Bilirakis said after the House approved the bill. “I am especially proud that my bill, the ACCESS Act, has been included in this important legislative package. This provision ensures that self-driving cars are developed with seniors and the underserved in mind. Approximately 20 percent of Floridians are over the age of 65, and self-driving cars hold the power to safely put them back in the driver’s seat of their lives by providing them with greater independence and mobility.”
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.