Senators tell feds: Make way for self-driving cars

A bipartisan pair of senators wants to make sure that federal regulators are getting ready for self-driving cars.

Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro attack shines spotlight on Biden's age CNN, NY Times to host next Democratic debate in October Poll: College students say Warren won third Democratic debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow GOP senator introduces bill banning 'addictive' social media features MORE (R-Neb.) sent a letter to the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Thursday to make sure that it was prepared to “lay the foundation for autonomous vehicle technology.” 

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Self-driving cars can “significantly reduce roadway accidents, shorten commutes, and increase productivity for the American people in the coming years,” the senators told NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “We look forward to working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to accelerate the safety benefits of this technology and encourage states as they consider its potential.”

While companies like Google have been racing to develop new cars that drive themselves, the laws have yet to fully embrace the technology, which is still in its infancy. 

Only a handful of states across the country allow driverless cars to be driven on their streets. That’s partly due to a 2013 recommendation from NHTSA, which said that the federal government “does not recommend” that states legalize the technology for anything other that testing.

In their letter, the two senators urged the agency chief to change course on that position.

“Nearly two years after the May 2013 policy statement, we have seen the capabilities of these vehicles advance,” they wrote.

Booker and Fiscer also urged the agency chief to be more flexible with its automobile safety standards, which were designed for cars with a driver and may not be relevant for the cars of the future, they said.