Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Walden helps pass landmark legislation to pave the way for self-driving cars

September 6, 2017
Press Release

Walden helps pass landmark legislation to pave the way for self-driving cars

Leads bipartisan effort to advance technology that will save lives, create new economic opportunities, and help seniors and Americans with disabilities live more independently

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today helped pass landmark legislation through the House of Representatives to pave the way for self-driving cars. Walden has led a bipartisan effort to advance self-driving vehicle technology to help make America’s roads safer, create new economic opportunities, and help seniors and those with disabilities live more independently.

“Self-driving cars hold the promise of making America’s roads safer, creating new economic opportunities, and helping seniors and those with disabilities live more independently. The SELF DRIVE Act strikes the critical balance of enhancing consumer safety while promoting the continued development of this cutting-edge technology,” said  Walden. “This bipartisan bill paves the way for advanced collision avoidance systems and self-driving cars nationwide, and ensures that America stays a global leader in innovation.”

The SELF-DRIVE Act (H.R. 3388) advanced through Walden’s Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously in July. This legislation focuses on four key areas: Consumer Protection, Fostering Innovation, Increasing Mobility, and Promoting Research and Development. The SELF-DRIVE Act will help create a clear path for the safe testing, development, and deployment of self-driving cars in the United States.

During a speech on the House floor today, Walden cited Oregon’s high rate of traffic fatalities as need for this technology. Researchers have noted that self-driving cars are projected to reduce traffic deaths by 90%, saving 30,000 lives a year nationally. Walden has lauded self-driving vehicles as an innovative solution to reduce vehicle-related deaths in Oregon and across the country.

“Almost 40,000 lives were lost on our roads last year. This represents yet another yearly increase in traffic-related fatalities.  In my home state of Oregon, traffic fatalities were the highest they’ve been in 14 years, increasing by an alarming 20 percent from the year before,” said Walden. “Statistics show that 94 percent of accidents relate to human behavior. During our morning commute into work, just look around. We all see folks on their phones in the cars next to us. While National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cannot write a safety standard to make us all perfect drivers, it can work to advance life-saving technologies – which is the underlying goal of today’s bipartisan legislation.”

Walden also highlighted the importance of this bipartisan initiative for America’s seniors and those living with disabilities. Walden says self-driving vehicle technology will help improve independence for Americans who live with mobility and accessibility challenges. The SELF DRIVE Act establishes a federal advisory council to ensure manufacturers and regulators understand the needs of Americans traditionally underserved by public transportation as well as senior citizens and those living with disabilities.

"Additionally, self-driving cars hold the promise of better access to transportation for our nation’s 47 million senior citizens, 27 million Americans with severe disabilities, and the many communities across the country underserved by public transportation,” said Walden. “H.R. 3388 ensures their voices are heard by automakers and regulators as this technology develops.” 

Walden’s Energy and Commerce Committee has held over 250 meetings to develop this legislation with a wide range of stakeholders including manufacturers, suppliers, tech companies, insurance providers, state government officials, seniors groups, and disability advocates. During a meeting in January, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt told Walden that they believe the development of automated trucking technology could improve the economic output of a community by up to 10%, simply by moving goods through and around towns more efficiently. Walden spoke of the potential for self-driving cars to boost the automobile industry, which is vital to growing American jobs and stimulating the economy.

“This bill is also about ensuring America stays a global leader in the development of self-driving technology. After all, the auto industry is responsible for more than 7 million jobs nationwide and drives more than $900 billion into the economy each year.  We want to see those numbers continue to grow and do what we can to keep these jobs in the U.S.”

The SELF DRIVE Act passed unanimously through the House today, and now awaits action in the U.S. Senate. For complete background on the SELF DRIVE Act, please click here.