Jul 19, 2017

Self-driving car bill moves forward

Andy Wong / AP

House lawmakers voted Wednesday to move forward with a broad bill that would for the first time create federal laws around self-driving cars. The bill would give wide-ranging authority to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to oversee development and testing, which is supported by manufacturers who say a patchwork of state laws could severely slow down the technology.

What's next: The bill heads to a full House Energy & Commerce committee markup next week, and will head to the House floor in September. The Senate is also taking up similar legislation.

Early days: With Congress bitterly divided on so many issues, the markup displayed a surprising bipartisan congeniality. It felt like a throwback to hearings held during the early days of the internet when members linked arms to help the nascent technology progress — before the vicious net neutrality debate emerged. Self-driving car technology is still novel and far from being conquered by a set of companies. Expect the tenor to change as the market evolves and winners start to emerge.

The bill also:

  • Requires vehicle manufacturers to submit safety assessment certifications and develop cybersecurity plans.
  • Creates a federal advisory committee to study areas like workforce and privacy issues.

Lawmakers are still wrestling with a few remaining issues:

  • Cybersecurity: Several worry that the bill doesn't fully address cybersecurity requirements for autonomous vehicles, or "computers on wheels." Rep. Tony Cardenas wants security requirements to apply to all vehicles, not just self-driving ones, as all new cars now collect and process large amounts of data.
  • States' roles: There are questions around what authority states will have to oversee safety features, and also how pre-emption provisions could impact car dealers and other important players in local economies. Rep. Matsui wants to keep states engaged in the testing and deployment of vehicles rather than cut them out.
  • Federal resources: Putting the onus on NHTSA to oversee all self-driving vehicles means the agency needs more resources to do the job.

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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1.2 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million worldwide Saturday night, as Spain overtook Italy as the country with the most infections outside the U.S.

The big picture: About half the planet's population is now on lockdown and the global death toll was nearing 64,800, by Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll surpasses 8,500

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 8,500 in the U.S. early Sunday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day for the past four days, since April 1.

The big picture: President Trump said Saturday America's is facing its "toughest" time "between this week and next week." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. deaths are expected to continue to rise during this period.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health