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National framework for self-driving cars inches closer to law

Passing legislation isn't exactly a speedy process, so don't expect this to get signed into law by the end of the week.

Yesterday, I reported on the legislation that would soon appear before a US House subcommittee, and how it could affect the near future of self-driving car development. Today, that legislation passed in subcommittee, and... that's about it, really.

The US House Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee, part of the Energy and Commerce Committee, approved on Wednesday a piece of legislation aimed at creating a national framework to support the deployment and development of self-driving vehicles. The full committee should vote on the bill, and any changes made between now and then, next week.

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The legislation is unchanged since yesterday, so the nuts and bolts are all still the same. It would permit automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without requiring them to adhere to certain federal standards, such as the presence of controls for the driver. It will also prevent states from barring deployment in any fashion, which is likely to cause consternation with the states' rights crowd. Automakers will still be required to prove their cars are roadworthy, but some of the red tape will be removed.

There's still a long way to go before it becomes law, though. If you've forgotten your "Schoolhouse Rock" songs, the bill must pass committee before heading to the US House for a full vote. That would likely happen in September. Then, the Senate gets a crack it at. If both houses vote to approve it, only then will it land on the president's desk and have a shot at becoming law. It can also be modified at several points throughout this process, and it can always end up in the president's veto pile, too.