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Change the rules so we can test more self-driving cars, automakers tell feds

Why it matters to you

Lifting self-driving car restrictions may help speed up the development of autonomous vehicles.

The current autonomous car testing rules are holding back progress. Lifting tight restrictions on the number of allowed self-driving vehicles is imperative to move the much-needed technology ahead. That is the essence of the message that will be presented on Tuesday to a U.S. House panel, according to Reuters.

Currently, only 2,500 vehicles in a 12-month period can be exempt from U.S. Transportation Department National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rules. Senators on both sides of the aisle are working to provide relief to automakers who wish to test autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads. Michigan Democrat Senator Gary Peters and Republican Senator John Thune, the chair of the Commerce Committee, released a statement of support. The senators are looking into legislation change that “clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology.”

More: In addition to Mercedes, Google, and Tesla, Subaru can now test autonomous tech in California

GM vice president of global strategy Mike Abelson pre-released his testimony to the panel Monday. “Without changes to those regulations, it may be years before the promise of today’s technology can be realized and thousands of preventable deaths that could have been avoided will happen,” Abelson said. “It is imperative that manufacturers have the ability to test these vehicles in greater numbers.”

In another early testimony release, Toyota Research Institute chief executive Gill Pratt stated, “It is important that the federal government begin looking beyond testing to deployment of these systems to address the handful of standards that are inconsistent with or incompatible with autonomous vehicle technology.”

A Lyft public policy executive is prepared to tell the panel his company has a goal to operate a driverless pilot in a major U.S. city this year, while an exec from Volvo Car Group plans to tell the House panel that under current regulations Volvo isn’t committing to U.S. tests of its “Drive Me” pilot already running in Sweden.