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The Future of Autonomous Vehicles | Commentary

For instance, there is no national framework that encourages or affirmatively permits testing of autonomous vehicles on highways. Certain states are taking the initiative in this area: Last year Florida and California and the District of Columbia joined Nevada in allowing autonomous vehicles to be operated on public roadways for testing purposes.

The federal government has a large role to play in encouraging autonomous vehicle development. But as policymakers and regulators contemplate appropriate policies for this space, it is critical that all stakeholders — including government, auto industry and technology industry players — are afforded the opportunity to provide input to that process. Nissan’s Andrew Christensen testified that “an ongoing and open dialogue among stakeholders is critical to help address the social framework needed to support autonomous technology development.”

Our policies should not attempt to prematurely dictate the direction in which these nascent technologies should develop. Overly prescriptive rules will subdue innovation, investment and competition, delay the benefits of autonomous technologies, and thwart U.S. leadership in this space.

If federal policymakers choose policies that encourage innovation and investment, these technologies — and the safety, health, environmental, economic and lifestyle benefits that come with them — will develop more quickly and become widely available.

Autonomous vehicles are a big part of our future. But how quickly that time arrives depends in large part on how we set the stage for its development now. We encourage policymakers to think about their roles as we travel toward this exciting vision for our country.

Catherine McCullough is the Executive Director of the Intelligent Car Coalition.

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