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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a renewed push to get an autonomous vehicles bill through Congress, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) is reintroducing the SELF Drive Act Wednesday, Latta told Axios.

The big picture: New policy legislation is a long shot in the short Congressional calendar leading up to Election Day. But Latta's effort shows the importance many lawmakers put on promoting a U.S. lead in the development of self-driving vehicles.

What they're saying: "The technology is changing, and we don't want the Chinese to lead," Latta, ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce technology and communications subcommittee, told Axios. "We've got to keep moving on it for safety's sake."

  • The SELF Drive Act is a federal framework for autonomous vehicle regulation in the U.S., requiring cybersecurity provisions for AV manufacturers, exempting certain national safety standards to get cars to market quicker and pre-empting states from passing safety laws regarding AVs.
  • The revised bill contains some changes from a version that passed the House previously, including language that committee aides say makes it more inclusive for people with disabilities.
  • Latta said the coronavirus crisis has made the need for self-driving cars in the U.S. even more apparent, as people seek contactless ways to get around and have goods delivered.

Flashback: After the SELF Drive Act first passed the House in 2017, objections in the Senate over certain provisions doomed the effort to create a federal regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles.

Our thought bubble, from Axios transportation reporter Joann Muller: Congress has been talking about passing AV legislation for more than two years but hasn't been able to get it done.

  • Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation offers only guidance to companies developing self-driving cars.
  • Without federal standards, the industry is relying on a patchwork of state laws, and consumer advocates complain about safety risks of AV testing on public roads.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2020 - Economy & Business

Eyeing the end of gas-powered cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Gasoline-powered cars may be going the way of the woolly mammoth, even if it will take decades to replace them and seems hard to fathom today.

The big picture: Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have powered automobiles for more than 100 years. But the shift to electric vehicles, slow to materialize at first, is now accelerating due to tightening government policies, falling costs and a societal reckoning about climate change.

20 mins ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
59 mins ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).