US House unanimously approves measures to speed up autonomous car testing

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a proposal that could accelerate the testing and deployment of self-driving cars, though not without safety concerns from some parties.

The bill still has to go the Senate — where a group has been working on its own legislation — but in its first year would let automakers deploy up to 25,000 vehicles bypassing normal safety standards, Reuters reported. By the third year, the limit would grow to 100,000 vehicles.

Various companies — such as GM, Waymo, and Volkswagen — have put pressure on Congress in order to speed up their projects, and out of worry that state regulations could interfere, particularly ones proposed in California. Normally federal rules would block vehicles without human drivers, and indeed the House legislation still doesn't include large trucks.

A key point in the bill is the elimination of pre-market approval for technologies, although automakers will still have to submit safety assessments, and prove their cars are at least as safe as current models. Vehicles may also have to meet certain headlight standards, and warn people to check rear seats in case children are left behind.

Concerns have been raised throughout the bill's history. "The autonomous vehicle bill just passed by the House leaves a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers. It pre-empts any state safety standards, but there are none at the national level," Consumer Watchdog said in a statement following the bill's approval.

Apple is currently engaged in limiting public testing of a self-driving car platform. The company appears to have scaled back its ambitions from selling an original vehicle to developing a corporate shuttle, and possibly getting involved with ridehailing services.


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