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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.

1 hour ago - Health

First Texas doctor sued for performing abortion in violation of new law

Abortion rights activists march to the house of US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in Chevy Chase Maryland, on Sept. 13, 2021, following the court's decision to uphold a stringent abortion law in Texas. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

A San Antonio physician is facing a lawsuit after he admitted performing an abortion considered illegal under Texas' new law.

Why it matters: The civil suit, filed by a convicted felon in Arkansas, against Alan Braid is the first such suit under the law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion after six weeks.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats propose raising debt ceiling through midterms

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House and Senate leadership announced on Monday that they plan to attach a proposal to raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 2022 to a short-term, government funding bill. The bill must pass before the end of the month or Congress risks a shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats are taking a huge risk by trying to force through an increase of the debt limit in its must-pass funding bill. The move is wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats who are hoping they can get at least 10 centrist Republicans to balk, as well as an effort to put Republicans on record opposing it.