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Is Congress Ready to Allow Cars With No Steering Wheel?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 16, 2018 1:20 PM

It won't be long before you look at the car next to you and see no driver, but no steering wheel? No gas pedal? And no brakes?!

General Motors already has plans to make that kind of self-driving car. It is the latest thing in driverless design, and it's cause for serious debate.

Current safety rules require cars to have a steering wheel and pedals, but Congress is considering an exception. After all, proponents argue, who needs them when there is no driver?

Self-Drive Legislation

Car and tech companies have been lobbying Congress to speed up legislation to allow cars like GM's Cruise AV. It's slowing down, however.

After passing through the U.S. House of Representatives last year, the SELF-DRIVE Act has stalled in the U.S. Senate. The safety issues go beyond steering wheels and pedals.

"People need to be assured, and they need to be assured over time," Sen. Diane Feinstein told Recode. "And you can't just dump something on a freeway and have people looking over saying, 'My God, there's no driver.'"

The Senate's companion legislation, known as AV START Act, is stuck in first gear. Public interest groups want some changes, and they insist autonomous vehicles adhere to existing safety regulations.

No Rush, Autonomous Vehicles

Critics say the slow-down in legislation is a good thing.

"They argue that rulemaking is slow and deliberate because that's what's required to protect public safety," reports Ars Technica. It may push legalized, driverless cars into the next decade.

In the meantime, automakers are planning for the near future. GM announced this week that is investing $100 million in manufacturing facilities for the Cruise AV.

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