Congress takes driverless car for a spin


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

A bipartisan group of 18 House lawmakers began taking rides around Washington in a driverless car on Tuesday to test out the emerging technology.

The rides, which were arranged by the House Transportation Committee, took lawmakers on a path that included streets and a highway near the Capitol. 

Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who conducted a driverless car test ride of his own last year, said it was important to let fellow lawmakers experience the technology for themselves. 

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“Autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies have significant potential to increase transportation safety and efficiency,” Shuster said in a statement. “The future of transportation is coming quickly, and it’s important to provide policymakers with opportunities to gain a better understanding of these kinds of innovations."

Shuster said the driverless car rides lawmakers took on Tuesday were particularly timely as Congress attempts to craft a new transportation funding bill.

“As the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to develop a long-term surface transportation bill, we are working to help promote innovation,” Shuster said.

“We have to encourage our state partners to utilize new technologies, and along with the states, we must begin planning for the benefits and challenges that new technologies will bring to our transportation system,” he continued.

The car is owned by Carnegie Mellon University, which is located in Shuster's home state.

Companies like Google have joined the Pittsburgh university in developing prototypes of driverless cars that are operated with staple parts like steering wheels and manual braking systems.

The lawmakers who are scheduled to join Shuster in the driverless cars rides this week include Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.); Rodney Davis (R-Ill.); Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio); Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); Tom Rice (R-S.C.); Joe Pitts (R-Pa.); Rick Larsen (D-Wash.); Tom Petri (R-Wis.); Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.); Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.); Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.); Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.); Daniel Webster (R-Fla.); Lamar Smith (R-Texas); Don Young (R-Alaska) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Some lawmakers have expressed uncertainty about the possibility of allowing cars on U.S. roads to drive themselves, but lawmakers who participated in the test drives on Tuesday said they were excited about the potential for the technology.

"Today I will be riding in Carnegie Mellon’s driverless car," Rep. Gibbs tweeted before he took the driverless car out for a spin. 

"Tomorrow @RepLarryBucshon & I will share our experiences," Gibbs added.