Rep. Latta Confident a GOP-led House Would Pass AV Bill

Capitol Agenda by Eugene Mulero

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WASHINGTON — A proponent of the mainstream use of autonomous vehicles signaled that his comprehensive legislation on the technology would advance if Republicans take over the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) of the Energy and Commerce Committee said his SELF DRIVE Act would certainly cruise through committee and gain floor consideration in the chamber under GOP rule.

“We need to move this bill,” the congressman told Transport Topics after a hearing in the House on autonomous technology Feb. 2. “It should be moving forward because again it’s legislation that we’ve passed out of committee and that we all worked on. And, so, it’s essential.”


“We have to have a national framework, so we have to have pre-emption because we can’t have 50 states and the District of Columbia doing their own thing, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio says). (EWTN via YouTube)

He added for emphasis: “Good Lord willing, we take back the House and I’ll guarantee, if that happens … I’ll have my bill there and we’ll pass it again.”

The congressional midterm elections are scheduled for November.

The congressman reintroduced his Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act last year.

The measure’s primary aim is to establish a national framework on autonomous vehicles.

As he put it, “We have to have a national framework, so we have to have pre-emption because we can’t have 50 states and the District of Columbia doing their own thing. Because, you know, every time you got near a state line you’d have the car saying you got so many minutes before it goes back into manual mode.”

Latta expounded on potential safety benefits associated with mainstream access of AVs. The technology, he argued, would seek to address crashes centered on driver error. It also would offer mobility options for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

In the commercial space, the technology potentially would facilitate the flow of freight and alleviate supply chain woes by focusing on the workforce.

“What I hear from everybody that’s in the trucking industry, not only in Ohio but nationally,” he said, “is that we have an 80,000-trucker shortage right now in this country.”


Sens. John Thune (left) and Gary Peters 

Latta’s bill had easily advanced to the U.S. Senate in 2017. There, his bill lacked sufficient support to reach the president’s desk. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), members of the committee on freight matters, endorsed AV policies, yet were unable to garner requisite backing for their AV bill.

At a recent Commerce Committee hearing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) pressed Steven Cliff, the nominee for the top post at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Lee asked, “What specific actions will you take to remove barriers and incentivize the deployment of highly automated vehicles if confirmed?”

Senate Commerce Committee Questions for NHTSA Nominee Steven Cliff by Transport Topics on Scribd

Cliff responded, “NHTSA identified barriers in current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that contain requirements for vehicles to be equipped with traditional driver controls, as well as FMVSS that reference driver seating positions. NHTSA continues to explore options to improve vehicle safety through innovative technologies.

“If confirmed, I am committed to ensuring that NHTSA continue and advance these efforts.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Feb. 8, 9:30 a.m.: The National Transportation Safety Board updates the accident report from a multivehicle crash near Mount Pleasant Township, Pa., in 2020.

Feb. 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meets to consider the nominations of Maria Duaime Robinson to be assistant energy secretary for electricity, and Laura Daniel-Davis to be an assistant interior secretary for land and minerals management.



Feb. 8, 10 a.m.: The House Oversight and Reform Committee meets for a hearing on the fossil fuel industry. Witnesses will include Enrique Hernandez of Inter-Con Security Systems; Susan Avery of Avery Consulting LLC; Alexander A. Karsner of X Development LLC; and Jane Holl Lute of Sicpa North America Inc.

Feb. 8, 10 a.m.: The General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee meets for a hearing on U.S. farm policy.

Feb. 8, 11 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers water infrastructure policy. Watch the hearing here

Feb. 8, 2 p.m.: The House Oversight Subcommittee meets for a hearing on tax policy.

Feb. 9, 9 a.m.: The House Government Operations Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Revitalizing WMATA: Getting to a Culture of Excellence.”



Feb. 9, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee considers the nomination of Gigi Sohn to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission.

Feb. 9, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee debates the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2021.

Feb. 9, 4:30 p.m.: The Washington Post Live hosts former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Feb. 10, 12:45 p.m.: Politico Live holds a virtual discussion on climate change. Participants include White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy.

Freight Corridor

Another case of being fact-checked.

Legislative Docket

The U.S. House-passed America COMPETES Act would authorize $45 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees meant to improve freight connectivity. Certain provisions are meant to enhance semiconductor manufacturing capabilities as well as establish a Commerce Department post tasked with monitoring goods along commercial corridors.

America Competes Act by Transport Topics on Scribd

The measure also includes the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which would update regulations for companies moving goods through U.S. maritime ports. Bill sponsors will negotiate a final bill with Senate counterparts, who already advanced their version, titled the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).


Congressional Republican leaders have indicated they intend to focus on pocketbook concerns nationwide. These include the rising cost of commodities.



Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) observed, “Joe Biden is the president of high prices. It’s a new year, and the same old record-high Joe Biden inflation is hitting families in Wyoming.

“Americans are still struggling to pay for the most expensive Christmas ever. Now they have less money in their pockets at the end of each month as prices keep going up and wages can’t keep up. People in Wyoming are worried about paying the rent, heating their home, and paying for gas and groceries. The president is asleep at the wheel.”

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The Last Word

We have to change a culture that accepts as inevitable the loss of tens of thousands of people in traffic crashes.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff on Feb. 1


We publish Mondays when Congress is in session and add updates throughout the week. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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