Google Urging Congress To Speed Up On Self-Driving Cars

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Google self-driving car is displayed at the Google headquarters on September 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed State Senate Bill 1298 that allows driverless cars to operate on public roads for testing purposes. The bill also calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern licensing, bonding, testing and operation of the driverless vehicles before January 2015. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The head of Alphabet’s Google self-driving car program will urge the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to grant national auto safety regulators new authority to speed the introduction of self-driving cars on American roads.

Chris Urmson, director of the Google (GOOG) program, will tell the Senate Commerce Committee that legislators should grant new authority to the U.S. Transportation Department to help get fully autonomous vehicles on the road, according to his prepared testimony, which was reviewed by Reuters.

“We propose that Congress move swiftly to provide the secretary of transportation with new authority to approve lifesaving safety innovations. This new authority would permit the deployment of innovative safety technologies that meet or exceed the level of safety required by existing federal standards, while ensuring a prompt and transparent process,” according to the prepared testimony.

Major automakers and technology companies are racing to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves, but have complained that state and federal safety rules are impeding testing and ultimate deployment of such vehicles. California in December proposed draft rules that would bar autonomous vehicles without human controls and a licensed driver.

Subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter.

Google was disappointed by California’s action. “If every state is left to go its own way without a unified approach, operating self-driving cars across state boundaries would be an unworkable situation and one that will significantly hinder… the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles,” Urmson’s testimony says.

Urmson’s testimony says many federal safety rules would not be needed with fully autonomous vehicles, like a rear-view mirror requirement.

In January, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to allow more driverless cars to operate on U.S. roads as part of a broader effort to speed up development of self-driving vehicles.

NHTSA said Friday in a report there are significant legal hurdles to allowing fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels.

NHTSA will write guidelines for self-driving cars within six months, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in January. The agency last month said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law.

Google wants to offer fully autonomous vehicles for use on U.S. roads “soon.”

But it had a recent setback. One of its self-driving cars struck a municipal bus in California on Feb. 14. Google said it made changes to its software after the crash to avoid future incidents.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward