July 19, 2017

Self-Driving Vehicle Bill Marks an Important Step for Emerging Technology, But May Stall State Efforts to Answer Critical Questions

Statement from Joshua Goldman, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2017)—A new bill being considered in the U.S. House would introduce a new federal policy approach to autonomous vehicles. While it’s important for the federal government to address the impacts of self-driving technology, this bill fails to recognize the many impacts autonomous vehicles may cause beyond improving transportation safety, including their potential impacts on pollution, oil consumption, congestion, and equitable access to clean, affordable transportation. This approach could take this emerging technology in the wrong direction, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Joshua Goldman, senior policy analyst for the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It’s an exciting time for transportation technology, and the federal government has a key role to play in the deployment of new autonomous vehicles. However, the effects of self-driving vehicles are still unknown, and there are important questions we need to answer about the impacts of these technological advances. We need to work carefully to make sure we understand what these vehicles will mean for pollution, congestion, public transportation, and employment. This bill could make that harder.

“The new House bill, while it offers some positive changes, would overly restrict states from addressing the unknown impacts caused by autonomous vehicles in the future. This technology could be transformative, and create a range of impacts on different communities. States ultimately need flexibility to set rules that address these impacts.

“Both state and federal leaders should look to the UCS principles for making the most of the self-driving future as they consider the potential impacts of this technology. We can build a transportation system that’s safer, cleaner, and more equitable, with opportunities to improve access for more people—but we need to make smart decisions now in order to get there.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.