A key congressional committee voted favorably on the measure which would allow companies over time to test as many as 100,000 highly autonomous vehicles in the United States. Under this approach, tech and auto giants would have to prove to the U.S. government that their self-driving technology is just as safe as old-fashioned cars currently on the country’s roads. In exchange, the Department of Transportation can exempt those autonomous vehicles from some federal safety requirements—including, potentially, rules that require them to have steering wheels. The bill, which has bipartisan support, bars states from imposing their own regulations targeting the design and operation of driverless cars, as well as their software. States do appear to retain some ability, however, to restrict autonomous vehicles on their public roadways.
It is unclear how the legislation would affect legal liability for persons injured in collisions occurring while a vehicle in in self-driving mode.
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