Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The U.S. has a competitive advantage in the development of self-driving cars, but risks squandering it by disrupting global markets with tariffs on imported vehicles, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a science and technology policy think tank.

Why it matters: After decades of decline, the U.S. auto industry stands to re-emerge as a global leader by leveraging America’s competitive advantage in IT hardware and software. But trade policies intended to protect American workers could trigger reciprocal actions, cutting off markets for U.S. vehicles, ITIF says.

What's at stake: Most of the $80 billion invested in AV research between August 2014 and June 2017 occurred in the U.S, says the Brookings Institution, including by foreign automakers, who do much of their research and development here.

What’s needed: ITIF recommends policies that reinforce the U.S. advantage for developing, testing and producing AVs, such as:

  • Federal regulations that encourage AV testing and deployment.
  • Increased tax credits for R&D.
  • An emphasis on engineering and computer education.
  • Support for collaborative R&D.

What to watch: The threat of auto tariffs are hanging over talks that started this week on new bilateral trade deals with the EU, the U.K. and Japan.

Go deeper

How "naked ballots" could upend mail-in voting in Pennsylvania

Trump signs in Olyphant, Penn. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Moderator Chris Wallace. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jay Powell bump elbows before House hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday that the expiration of Congress' coronavirus stimulus will weigh on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: Powell warned that the effects of dried-up benefits are a looming risk to the economy, even if the consequences aren't yet visible.

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