U.S. push for self-driving cars faces lawyer’s oppositions

Bid for the attempts to lift regulations for the deployment of thousands of autonomous vehicles made by Republican Senator John Thune was yet again rejected by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Thune had proposed to attach measures lifting regulations on autonomous vehicles to a $78 billion surface transportation bill along with granting the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to grant exemptions for tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind arguing that autonomous vehicles could help eliminate numerous deaths due to human error like distracted or impaired drivers.

Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, cited recent Tesla crashes and other recent incidents involving driver assistance systems in her response.

“It seems like every other week we’re hearing about a new vehicle that crashed when it was on Autopilot,” Cantwell said. “I do think this is legislation that we can complete by the end of this year… These last issues are very thorny as it relates to the legal structure.

“Democrats have yielded to pressure from special interests against the best interests of our economy and the American people. Are we really going to continue to ignore the enormous safety benefits of these vehicles? Teamsters and trial lawyers” are opposed to self-driving legislation and they seem to own lock, stock and barrel the Democrats on this committee”, said Thune.

The Teamsters did not immediately comment. The American Association for Justice, which represents plaintiffs lawyers said it “will continue to oppose any legislation that exempts the driverless car industry from basic safety standards, and allows auto and tech companies to avoid being held accountable through the use of forced arbitration clauses.”

Many believe that autonomous vehicles place “millions of jobs at risk” and any self-driving legislation should not apply to commercial trucks.