Washington, D.C. – SAFE submitted testimony this morning to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Technology calling for an “Autonomous First” approach to the deployment of driverless cars, rather than a slower, iterative approach. Such a regulatory framework should enable this rapidly evolving technology to deliver the maximum possible energy security and societal benefit—significantly reducing America’s dependence on oil while improving road safety and expanding mobility to millions—without the encumbrance posed by overregulation at the state or federal levels.
SAFE modeling indicates that the market environment will strongly favor the adoption of shared, autonomous cars powered by advanced fuels like electricity, promoting fuel diversity in a transportation sector currently dependent on oil for 92 percent of its energy.
Modeling also shows that if a driverless future includes significant carsharing, petroleum usage in the transportation sector could decline by 50 percent by 2040, or perhaps even faster given the right mix of technology and regulatory developments.
The benefits of AVs are not limited to reduced oil consumption. Studies show that as Americans age into their 70s and 80s, they sharply reduce travel. In addition, the labor force participation rate for individuals with an ambulatory disability is only 25 percent, compared to 75 percent for the broader population. Autonomous vehicles can provide mobility, and dignity, to older Americans and the disabled, opening the door to increased social and economic participation.
Driverless cars also stand to drastically improve road safety. Over 38,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2015, up 8 percent over 2014. Furthermore, 93 percent of car crashes are caused by human error. Fully autonomous vehicles stand to reduce road accidents by 90 percent, virtually eliminating a scourge responsible for an average of over 100 deaths every day last year.
Representatives at Tuesday’s hearing from autonomous vehicle pioneer Google, ridesharing service Lyft and automaker General Motors joined in calling for the removal of one of the largest barriers to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, a “patchwork” of inconsistent state regulations, asking for Congress to act to create a national standard to facilitate and encourage autonomous vehicle deployment.
SAFE’s written testimony is available online here.
About Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE)
Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is a nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America’s dependence on oil and improve U.S. energy security to bolster national security and strengthen the economy. SAFE advocates for expanded domestic production of U.S. oil and gas resources, continued improvements in fuel efficiency, and in the long-term, breaking oil’s stranglehold on the transportation sector through alternatives like natural gas for heavy-duty trucks and plug-in electric vehicles. In 2006, SAFE joined with General P.X. Kelley (Ret.), 28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, to form the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and former military leaders committed to reducing U.S. oil dependence.
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