No clear map yet for legalizing self-driving cars

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress is still struggling to pass legislation that would put self-driving cars on the roads.

Federal law currently bans fully autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads. Last year, both chambers of Congress tried and failed to pass legislation to change that.

Now, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is working on a bill on the issue. He said industry experts are reviewing a new plan to fund the research and infrastructure needed to make it happen.

“We want to hear from as many people as possible, get as many opinions as we can,” he said.

There’s agreement that fully autonomous vehicles would reduce crashes caused by human error.

“The quicker we can get these technologies out on the highways, the more lives that will be saved,” Peters said.

Two main concerns are privacy and cybersecurity, with experts saying the cars are vulnerable to foreign cyberattacks.

“They’re not foolproof because they haven’t been designed to thwart malicious activity,” Ryan Gerdes, who studies vehicle security at Virginia Tech, said. “Given that we can’t build these perfectly secure systems, the only thing we can do is make the systems more difficult to compromise.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it’s already working on autonomous vehicle policies.

“Many of the things they’re urging us to do in the legislation, the department is already taking action on,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Finch Fulton said.

But he said the legislation is needed, anyway.

“Only Congress provide the entire ecosystem, the certainty that they (automotive companies) need to be able to move forward with the investments in the safety technologies,” he explained.

Last time around, the House and Senate introduced two different plans. This time, lawmakers are working on a unified bipartisan effort to garner widespread support.

Peters said he will introduce his plan as soon as it’s ready.

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