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'Sweeping' House Bill Moves Self-driving Cars Forward

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U.S. House lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bill to speed the introduction of self-driving vehicles championed by tech and auto companies racing to develop and deploy the technology. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road deaths rose almost 8 percent in 2015, the largest annual jump in 50 years.

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

And, states could still set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspectors. The cap would rise over three years to 100,000 vehicles annually. Before the House vote, Ohio Republican Bob Latta, the bill's primary sponsor, called the technology "life saving".

Another interesting tidbit to note is that the bill would override any state-level laws prohibiting the testing of autonomous vehicle technology within state lines, effectively rendering the entire United States a testing ground for unproven self-driving systems. The bill, which had bipartisan appeal, now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan group is working on separate self-driving-car legislation. Early reports indicate debate over whether the Senate version should include provisions related to commercial trucks - a topic absent in the House bill.

The new parameters from the Trump Administration are expected to be a bit more lax than the initial ones set forth by the Obama Administration in 2016. State rules proposed for autonomous cars in California are considered too strict, though.

"The future of the automobile is here and this bill will give the automotive industry the tools it needs to completely revolutionize how we will get around for decades to come", said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The legislation supports new guidelines finalized August 31 by the Transportation Department for autonomous vehicle testing, which are set to be unveiled next week by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as self-driving testing site in MI. Automakers would also be required to provide regulators with safety assessments, but unlike in the Obama Administration guidelines, makers wouldn't need approval of new technologies in advance.