States and cities confront self-driving cars as Congress idles

By Mike Lee | 03/08/2024 06:46 AM EST

Lawmakers have struggled to create federal safety standards for autonomous vehicles. Local officials have been left to pick up the pieces.

photo collage of a self-driving car and a cyber background with street signs

POLITICO illustration/Photos by AP, iStock

It’s been nearly six years since the first recorded death involving a self-driving car.

And it’s been even longer since Congress seriously considered legislation to ensure the new vehicles are safe.

In the interim, a series of crashes has raised questions about the speed in which autonomous vehicles or automated driving systems have been added to U.S. roadways. The accidents have put pressure on federal lawmakers to do more to regulate self-driving cars — even as AV-makers look to grow the multi-billion dollar industry.


On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been the most active on the issue, having held seven hearings since 2016. But Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on potential legislation. And the federal vacuum has put state and local governments in a difficult position.