With individual American states such as Arizona starting to craft laws governing the use of self-driving cars on their roads, calls for the federal government to step in with its own regulations are growing. According to The Hill, Tech groups are hoping that last week’s appeal by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for Congress to approve $4 billion in spending for autonomous-driving programs will provide the impetus necessary to create a coherent set of laws governing all states.
For many in the industry, the possibility that a vacuum at the federal level could lead to a patchwork of sometimes conflicting state laws regulating self-driving cars may be enough to prevent them from hitting the road in large numbers. According to Jamie Boone, director of government relations at the Consumer Technology Association, “if you’re going to deploy an entirely new type of vehicle and technology,” the absence of federal regulations would mean “crossing state lines and having different rules is a huge inhibitor to that.”
An alternative plan being floated in Washington is to have the Transportation Department and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develop guidelines for U.S. states to follow when creating their own autonomous-drive legislation. Such a strategy would not be subject to a budget process, and Transportation Department officials believe the guidelines could be set up within six months.