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US Senate to Vote on Autonomous Vehicle Bill Amid Republican Objections

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Autonomous vehicles are on the brink of bringing a paradigm shift to the transportation industry, auto manufacturing, and how we interact with the world. While most of the fears surrounding self-driving vehicles stem from people’s uneasiness with being in a car with no human driver or manual controls whatsoever, there is also a great deal of worry concerning what will happen to all of the people whose livelihoods depend on driving. To begin addressing these concerns, U.S. legislators are currently voting on a bill which will begin regulating the use and adoption of self-driving vehicles. The U.S. House passed a bill called the SELF DRIVE Act (SDA) a few months ago, and now the Senate is set to vote on a companion bill called the AV START Act, or ADA. While the ADA began as a bipartisan offering, many Senate Republicans are now raising objections due to what they see as insufficient attention paid specifically to self-driving trucks.

The ADA proposes a series of regulations and changes to laws which will make room for self-driving vehicles and address potential safety concerns. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. John Thune (R) of North Dakota, says the ADA is all about using “common sense” to keep up with the newest autonomous vehicle technology and the changes it will bring:

This legislation proposes common sense changes in law to keep pace with advances in self-driving technology. By playing a constructive role in the development of self-driving transportation systems, our government can help save lives, improve mobility for all Americans – including those with disabilities, and create new jobs by making us leaders in this important technology.

While that sounds pretty bland, some Republicans in the Senate are decrying a lack of regulations surrounding the autonomous trucking industry. Many senators oppose adding trucking regulations right away out of fears of what automated trucking will do to the labor force if immediately adopted, while others like Thune believe that self-driving trucks should hit the roadways as soon as possible and therefore must be addressed in the bill. “Eventually [trucking] is a part of that overall equation,” Thune says, “you can’t have, really, two safety standards out there on the highways. So eventually trucks have to be dealt with.”

Despite the objections, the Senate’s ASA bill and the House’s SDA are expected to become law and should begin clearing the way for the first autonomous vehicles to start hitting the roads soon. Savor every drive you take from here on out. We might only have a few more years behind the wheel.

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