Lawmaker: Driverless cars ‘next generation of cruise control’

A Republican lawmaker who took a ride this week in a driverless car said on Wednesday that the technology  is “the next generation of cruise control.” 

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) said in a Facebook question-and-answer session about his driverless car test that he thought it was “neat” to ride in a car that was controlling itself. 

“It was neat to see how the car had the ability to see pedestrians on the street corners and adapt to how traffic moves,” Gibbs said.

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“The steering wheel moves and the turn signals go on almost as though there is an invisible man driving," the Ohio lawmaker continued. "All of the sensors are incorporated in the car and bystanders yesterday had no idea that this was a driverless car. It’s the next generation of cruise control.” 

Gibbs was one of eighteen lawmakers that are scheduled to take test drives in a driverless car that is owned by Carnegie Mellon University. The car rides are being arranged by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  

One of Gibbs' colleagues on the panel shared a similar reaction to the driverless car ride during the Facebook chat on Wednesday. 

“It was a great experience,” Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) said.  “The ride was very smooth and I couldn't tell that the technology was controlling the car. I felt safe and confident in the ability of the car to navigate traffic in Washington, DC.” 

Bucschon and Gibbs' driverless car ride took place on a path in Washington, D.C. that included streets and a highway near the Capitol. 

The lawmakers who also took rides on Tuesday, or are scheduled to this week, include Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), ohn Shimkus (R-Ill.); Rodney Davis (R-Ill.); 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.); 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.).

Companies like Google have developed prototypes of driverless cars that are operated with staple parts like steering wheels and manual braking systems.

Some lawmakers have expressed uncertainty about the possibility of allowing cars on U.S. roads to drive themselves, arguing that it would be hard to regulate liability for accidents and traffic violations. 

Bucshon and Gibbs said Wednesday in their chat that Congress should focus for now on getting out of the way of the companies that are leading the charge to develop driverless cars. 

“It's important that the federal government continues to fund basic science research that fosters private sector innovation,” Bucshon said. “We can also make sure that the regulatory climate encourages not inhibits innovation.” 

“Congress must ensure that the proper policies are in place to not stymie innovation and keep America a leader in technology,” Gibbs added. 

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