Salem Radio Network News Sunday, February 25, 2024

Science

US self-driving industry seeks federal support, cites China risk

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Transportation Department needs to support the development of autonomous vehicles, a coalition of groups representing the industry warned on Thursday, saying the nascent industry risks losing out to competitors like China.

“The AV industry is at a critical juncture and in need of strong leadership from USDOT,” the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Automotive Innovation and others said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“The department’s support for AV development is crucial to maintain our nation’s competitive edge,” the letter said, “with countries like China aggressively investing and advancing the technology.”

A spokesperson for Buttigieg did not immediately comment.

Self-driving cars could save thousands of lives annually “because they eliminate human errors like fatigued, impaired, and distracted driving,” the letter said.

The industry faces new headwinds after California in October suspended the permit of General Motors’ Cruise robotaxis to test on public roads, saying they were a risk to the public following a series of accidents involving Cruise vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating whether Cruise is taking sufficient precautions to safeguard pedestrians and has opened other safety probes.

Legislation to speed robotaxi deployment has stalled in Congress for more than five years.

Cruise’s woes are a significant setback for an industry dependent on public trust and the cooperation of regulators. GM CEO Mary Barra says Cruise must rebuild relationships with regulators.

Last month, more than two dozen unions urged Buttigieg to do more to ensure autonomous vehicle safety, saying “NHTSA must initiate an industry-wide investigation to determine the true extent of the safety failures behind the scenes.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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