US Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Bob Latta (R-OH) are on a mission to show the value of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and the need to invest in the sector. Some policymakers and transportation stakeholders are skeptical about self-driving cars and autonomous technology—understandably wary of a technology that endeavors to push the limits of feasibility and to remake the face of modern transportation. Knowing this, it is imperative that AV advocates demonstrate their safety and value.
In Congress, attempts to pass a comprehensive legal framework supporting AVs have been scuttled by representatives and senators concerned about consumer safety and technological feasibility. Reps. Dingell and Latta hope to push back on these concerns through the work of the bipartisan Congressional Autonomous Vehicle Caucus, which will “educate Members and staff on autonomous vehicle technology that can improve the safety and accessibility of roadways.” Both representatives serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection & Commerce Subcommittee, a key committee to the development of autonomous vehicles.
In the Caucus announcement, Rep. Dingell noted the importance of investing in AVs to bolster the nation’s manufacturing sector, saying, “If the United States is going to stay [at] the forefront of innovation, manufacturing, and safety, we must ensure our nation is engaging all stakeholders, making bold investments, and working across the aisle to get the necessary policies right to support the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.”
AVs will also help reshape the conversation about mobility. Rep. Latta pointed out that the technology will boost accessibility, saying, “This technology will improve the lives of millions of Americans while simultaneously providing people living with disabilities and seniors increased mobility and independence.” Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, agreed: “Autonomous vehicles, if properly designed, have the potential to dramatically enhance the independent mobility of blind Americans.”
Rep. Latta hopes to use the Caucus to personally show his colleagues the revolutionary power of autonomous vehicles. The congressman said he’d like to take members of Congress to the Transportation Research Center in Ohio and the Mcity Test Facility at the University of Michigan to experience AVs first hand.
By introducing members of Congress to AVs, advocates hope to identify and address their concerns surrounding safety, demonstrate the assistance provided by autonomous technology, and possibly move toward a comprehensive framework supporting autonomous vehicles.