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House unanimously approves sweeping self-driving car measure

House unanimously approves sweeping self-driving car measure
From Reuters - September 6, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House on Wednesday unanimously approved a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls and bar states from blocking autonomous vehicles.

The bill now goes to the Senate and would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, a cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.

Automakers and technology companies, including General Motors Co and Alphabet Incs self-driving unit Waymo, have been pushing for new federal rules making it easier to deploy self-driving technology.

Meanwhile, some consumer groups have sought additional safeguards.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has been working on similar legislation and could circulate a draft of the measure this week. One sticking point will be whether to include commercial self-driving trucks in the legislation. The House measure does not include large trucks.

Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and many other automakers have been lobbying Congress to act, often bringing test vehicles to Capitol Hill to give lawmakers a chance to test out a driverless car.

Representative Doris Matsui said the bill puts us on a path towards innovation which, up until recently, seemed unimaginable.

The issue has taken on new urgency since U.S. road deaths rose 7.7 percent in 2015, the highest annual jump since 1966, when more than 6.3 million people were injured in 2.44 million crashes.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a 2014 study the annual societal costs of U.S. traffic crashes is $836 billion in economic loss, and said human error accounts for 94 percent of crashes.

Current federal rules bar self-driving cars without human controls on U.S. roads and automakers think proposed state rules in California are too restrictive.

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