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Walden: U.S. ‘falling behind’ in race to build self-driving vehicles

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., expressed strong concerns about the U.S. falling behind in the global race to build autonomous vehicles during a House hearing Tuesday.

Walden spoke to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing entitled “Autonomous Vehicles: Promises and Challenges of Evolving Automotive Technologies.”

This hearing comes after Walden led efforts last Congress to pass landmark legislation to pave the way for self-driving cars. He said the bipartisan SELF DRIVE Act would make America’s roads safer, create new economic opportunity, and help seniors and those with disabilities live more independently.

“We laid out a compelling framework for the United States to lead the world in research, development, and manufacturing of autonomous automobiles,” Walden said. “We also gave people hope. We gave hope to the people currently facing a life of restriction — introducing a whole new world of mobility for those with physical disabilities and seniors.”

Walden then recognized one of the witnesses at the hearing, Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.  He also welcomed Carla McQuillan, the president of the Oregon National Federation of the Blind, who sat in the audience.

As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden led three hearings on autonomous vehicles and the committee conducted over 300 stakeholder meetings. These efforts led to the 2017 House passage of the SELF Drive Act, which never passed out of the Senate.

“Despite the work that was done then and the setback of coming up short, we are still here today talking about a need to pass an AV bill in the House. The U.S. is in a global race to AVs, but today the cost of inaction is clear: we are falling behind,” Walden said.

Walden concluded his statement by emphasizing the need for increased bipartisan and bicameral collaboration to quickly adopt a bill to regulate and promote this promising industry.

“We have the opportunity to prevent a family from experiencing the overwhelming despair from the loss of a loved one due to human errors on the road,” Walden said. “We have the ability to break down the barriers to mobility facing seniors and the disabled community and we can create new economic opportunity by ensuring the United States can be the global leader in this emerging technology. That is my ask to all of you, work with us, and let’s get this done — this year.”

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