Midterm Elections Add Ticking Clock Element to Congress' Self-Driving Car Bill
It looks like Congress’ new self-driving bill might have to wait until a new batch of unmentionables plant their collective rear ends in the seats populating Capitol Hill. Already passed in the House, the SELF DRIVE Act has managed to garner bipartisan support — a true miracle in these troubled times.
However, it’ll have to spread wings if it wants to be signed into law before year’s end. The midterm elections could stymie everything and force Congress to start all over again. A likely prospect, considering the Senate is still going over the bill.
“This entire process has been an incredible feat of bipartisanship,” Greg Rogers, director of government affairs at Securing America’s Future Energy, told Bloomberg. “Attempting to recreate a bill that’s this ambitious and this significant would be like trying to catch lightning in a bottle all over again.”
Lawmakers have until roughly the end of November to get it to President Trump for signing. Anything later would likely place the bill into serious jeopardy, something which neither automakers or the tech industry wants.
Negotiations on the Senate bill were still underway as lawmakers left for the recess, as bill authors John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, and Democrats Gary Peters of Michigan and Bill Nelson of Florida, tried to iron out remaining concerns.
It’s uncertain whether the bipartisan agreement that produced both the House and the Senate measures will be re-created in the next Congress. If Democrats secure a majority in the House, legislative priorities may shift. The rancor and discord that has upended other measures such as immigration and health care reform may spill over.
Honestly, we feel that Congress likely has plenty of time to get a comprehensive bill passed — even it has to be tweaked by new officials. Despite a few high-profile incidents that spurred a moderate backlash against autonomous vehicles, many states already provide automakers with a relatively open door policy to conduct testing, though true self-driving cars still appear to be years off.
We’d like to see politicians use that time to better verse themselves in current technologies and think about the long term ramifications of automated vehicles. It’s an immensely complicated issue that has real potential to bolster safety and the United States’ engineering might. But it comes with a cavalcade of issues in terms of legal liability, data security, employment, the larger economy, and personal freedom.
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