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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion — this is General Motors’ vision. These potential benefits of self-driving technology can only be fully realized when self-driving cars are deployed in large numbers, and when riders feel comfortable and secure.

What's needed: Federal legislation would provide a path for manufacturers to put self-driving vehicles on the roads safely, while allowing continued innovation. Current federal law prohibits deployment of self-driving vehicles without steering wheels and other conventional driver controls. And other regulations for self-driving cars vary from state to state.

Why it matters: Every year, crashes claim the lives of approximately 1.2 million people around the world — about 40,000 of them in the U.S. And 94% of traffic crashes in the U.S. are caused by human error. Because self-driving vehicles do not operate impaired, tired or distracted, they offer a compelling solution. And when self-driving vehicles are electric, they will help to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.

What to watch: The SELF DRIVE Act, passed by the House of Representatives, and the AV START Act, pending in the Senate, would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue new and revised safety regulations on an expedited basis. The bills would allow safe self-driving deployment during the period between enactment and NHTSA’s issuance of new regulations, but only by manufacturers that prove their self-driving cars are as safe as human drivers.

The bottom line: Transitioning to a self-driving society will take time, and will require cooperation and collaboration by the private and public sectors. Federal legislation is essential to enabling the journey.

Mary Barra is the chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.