Consumer protection and highway safety groups released statements yesterday pushing back on House Republicans who called for a revival of a federal autonomous vehicle bill as a mechanism to deal with COVID-19. The call to action was released in the form of a blog post from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They argue that AVs present an enormous opportunity to:
- Help seniors and those with disabilities become more self-sufficient;
- Deliver tests, medical supplies, groceries, and other necessities;
- Jump start our economy by not just preserving jobs, but also creating new ones, as businesses get back to work and eye whole new opportunities;
- Drastically improve roadway safety; and, of course,
- Have the United States lead on the world stage.
In the statement released yesterday, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety pushed back, stating that they “adamantly oppose any efforts to attach legislation from last session or staff draft provisions from this session for the deployment of AVs to any must-pass legislation, including additional COVID-19 relief or economic stimulus packages.” Consumer Reports as well as several labor unions echoed the sentiment.
At present, the effort to mix autonomous vehicle policy with COVID-19 relief remains highly unlikely. In fact, it’s possible that the blog post was released more to highlight how autonomous vehicles could be useful in times of national lockdowns rather than as a serious legislative proposal.