Google to testify before US Congress about self-driving cars

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Google to testify before US Congress about self-driving cars

Lawmakers weigh-up regulatory changes.

The director of Google’s self-driving car project and other senior auto industry executives will testify before US Congress next week on efforts their to develop safe and effective autonomous cars.

Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said that Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google, will testify before the committee on March 15.

Urmson will be joined by executives from General Motors, Delphi Automotive and ride-sharing service Lyft to talk about "advancements in autonomous vehicle technology and its anticipated benefits for Americans," the committee said.

In January, Detroit-based GM said it would invest US$500 million (A$673 million) into Lyft and laid out plans to develop an on-demand network of self-driving cars with the ride-sharing service.

The committee wants witnesses’ views “on the appropriate role of government in promoting innovation including removing unnecessary hurdles, and their strategy to grow consumer adoption of this new technology”.

Major automakers and technology companies are racing to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves, but have complained that state and federal safety rules are impeding testing and deployment of such vehicles.

In Australia, South Australia has become the first government to green-light on-road testing of driverless cars, with some ACT lawmakers lobbying to be next.

In January, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to allow more driverless cars to operate on US roads as part of a broader effort to speed up development of self-driving vehicles.

Safety regulators will write guidelines for self-driving cars within six months, Transporation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in January.

On February 4, NHTSA said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law, a major step toward ultimately winning approval for autonomous vehicles on the roads.

But Google said last month it bears "some responsibility" after one of its self-driving cars struck a municipal bus in Mountain View, California on February 14.

The crash may be the first case of one of its autonomous cars hitting another vehicle which has been blamed on the self-driving car. The internet search leader said it made changes to its software after the crash to avoid future incidents.

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