By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coalition of supporters of self-driving cars said on Tuesday that it will run ads this week in social media and Washington newspapers, in an effort to convince the U.S. Congress to adopt sweeping legislation to boost the nascent industry.
The ads are being placed by the Coalition for Future Mobility, which was formed in July by trade groups representing major automakers, along with other advocates for self-driving cars, as Congress began serious consideration of bills relating to autonomous vehicles.
They want the Senate to pass a bill that would speed up the use of self-driving cars by easing safety regulations, and bar states from blocking such vehicles. The House of Representatives has already unanimously approved a bill.
The Senate is considering a similar draft measure, but is divided over whether to include large commercial trucks, a dispute that could prevent the bill from winning approval this year.
The House measure, which only applies to vehicles under 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg), would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year. The cap would rise over three years to 100,000 vehicles annually.
As part of the campaign, major automakers will be contacting their employees and retirees, asking them to reach out to their members of Congress, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said.
The coalition launched a website and will use targeted Facebook advertising, focusing on groups who could benefit from autonomous vehicles, such as disabled veterans.
One of the print ads seen by Reuters features a man dressed in military fatigues sitting in a wheelchair. The ad says: “He fought for our freedom. Let’s give him back his.” That “will only become a reality if Congress acts,” the ad says.
The coalition includes trade groups representing automakers General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>, as well as organizations including ride sharing firm Lyft Inc, the Telecommunications Industry Association, the American Council of the Blind and a drone industry group.
Senate aides have been negotiating in recent days but have not reached agreement. A Senate panel could take up the issue at an Oct. 4 hearing, aides say.
Auto industry leaders say 3 million commercial truck jobs could eventually be at risk if self-driving vehicles replaced human drivers.
Self-driving proponents say 94 percent of U.S. car crashes are the result of human error and argue self-driving cars could dramatically cut the 35,000 annual road deaths.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)