Ohio Rep. Bob Latta Touts AV Tech’s Safety Potential
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A proponent of autonomous vehicles on Capitol Hill pointed to the potential for considering legislation about the technology during this session of Congress.
The approval of a national communication framework that would pave the way for autonomous vehicle operations is among Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Latta’s priorities for the 118th Congress.
The senior member of the GOP-led Energy and Commerce Committee anticipates garnering support from colleagues when he renews his legislative efforts. Legislation he sponsored over the years that would facilitate access to autonomous vehicles has stopped short of reaching the White House for enactment.
“We can’t really have 50 states and the District of Columbia coming up with their own,” the congressman said as he explained the need for a national framework for AVs, which he emphasized would ideally boost employment opportunities.
Thank you, @TechNetUpdate, for the invitation! It was great to speak with your members about priorities important to us both – including autonomous vehicles and strengthening cybersecurity – and how we can advance commonsense solutions in the 118th Congress. https://t.co/w9V2tNH0XL — U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (@boblatta) January 26, 2023
“We want to make sure that we get this done; we [have to] get it done right because, again, when we look around the world, other countries are out there right now testing,” Latta added, speaking this month at a forum hosted by The Hill newspaper.
With national data estimating nearly 43,000 highway fatalities in 2021, the congressman argued AVs would serve as instruments of safety across the mobility landscape.
“We can do so much with this technology, not just on the life-saving side but just think of during [COVID-19] — for all the people that were shut in that might not have had transportation,” Latta said. “They would had that transportation, from our seniors to the people who might have a disability, to be able to get from one point to another.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) signaled the potential for considering AV legislation during this session of Congress.
“It’s important that we also take action to ensure the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles,” she affirmed at a hearing this month. “The regulatory framework for [autonomous vehicles] must be led by the U.S.”
Committee consideration of legislation specific to AV technology has yet to be scheduled.
Latta’s legislation has sought to establish a federal framework for assisting agencies and industries with the deployment of autonomous vehicles. His Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act has garnered bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Along with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Latta launched the Congressional Autonomous Vehicle Caucus. The bipartisan group promotes autonomous technologies for the transportation networks.
Last month, the House GOP caucus selected Latta as chairman of the Communications & Technology Subcommittee.
Reacting to the appointment, Latta said in a Jan. 25 statement, “I am prepared to steer the subcommittee in pursuit of policies that benefit our communities and keep the United States at the forefront of innovation.”
“I look forward to building on the advancements we have made in recent years, including increasing access to reliable internet via rural broadband, cracking down on illegal robocalls and unleashing more spectrum for improved consumer connectivity.”
Industry stakeholders who promote the technology call on Congress to facilitate its access to the marketplace. At a recent Energy and Commerce hearing, Jeff Farrah, executive director of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, outlined potential benefits from enacting legislation outlining requisite statutory and regulatory provisions. He argued that doing so would “maintain and strengthen American leadership in the AV industry.”
Over the years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has expressed a commitment to collaborate with industries on technologies that promote safety. The department has indicated it is a “convener and facilitator, partnering with a broad coalition of industry, academic, states and local, safety advocacy and transportation stakeholders to support the safe development, testing and integration of automated vehicle technologies.”
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