US Lawmakers Kick Off Push For Federal Autonomous Vehicle Laws

Two US lawmakers launch bipartisan effort to educate other legislators about importance of autonomous vehicles as they look to revamp federal legislation

Two US lawmakers are starting a bipartisan effort to revive federal autonomous vehicle legislation efforts in the country amidst what they call an intensely competitive international environment.

The Congressional Autonomous Vehicle Caucus, launched by Republican Representative Robert Latta and Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell, aims to educate legislators about autonomous vehicles and the need for a consistent legislative framework for them across the country.

Caucuses are formed by lawmakers to advance a shared political goal, and in this case Latta and Dingell believe autonomous vehicles could save thousands of lives each year by reducing traffic accidents and deaths, while creating US jobs.

Credit: US SenateCompetitiveness

Latta said in an op-ed piece in June that the lack of US federal coordination on autonomous vehicles “empowers countries like China, Japan and Germany to take the lead”.

“If Congress fails to act, other countries will step in and dictate the future of AV technology,” he wrote at the time.

“We cannot allow this to happen. For the United States to be the driver of cutting-edge technology, we need a framework that allows the industry to innovate while ensuring high safety standards.”

In 2017 the House of Representatives passed the Self Drive Act, but the bill failed to make it through the Senate, and since then other efforts at AV legislation have foundered.


Latta and Dingell said US road deaths spiked 10.5 percent in 2021, with 42,915 people dying in motor vehicle crashes, and said autonomous vehicles could help reverse this trend.

“We’re working hard to find that common ground to get something that we can pass,” Dingell told Reuters.

She added that the country “cannot afford to have a patchwork of laws either across 50 states”.

In the Senate lawmakers Gary Peters and John Thune have been working on autonomous vehicle legislation.

Regulatory exemptions

They previously proposed to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration powers to allow 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer onto the roads with exemptions from current federal motor vehicle safety standards, with the figure rising to 80,000 within three years.

Last month the NHTSA said General Motors and Ford had asked for exemptions to deploy up to 2,500 self-driving cars per year without human controls such as steering wheels and brake pedals, the maximum they can request under current laws.