Automakers unveil proposals to speed U.S. self-driving deployment

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A group representing major automakers is unveiling a detailed proposal Wednesday aimed at making it easier to deploy thousands of self-driving vehicles in the coming years, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a group representing General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG and most other automakers, says the U.S. Transportation Department should “establish a robust national pilot program” for autonomous vehicle testing and deployment and create a new vehicle class for autonomous vehicles.

Current standards were written assuming the presence of a human driver, which presents a deployment barrier to vehicles without human controls like steering wheels.

The group also urges regulators to make it easier to get exemptions to temporarily deploy limited number of self-driving vehicles that do not meet safety standards. It also calls on Congress to raise the 2,500 vehicle-per manufacturer yearly cap.

Automakers also want Congress to consider providing grant funding to states that agree to a harmonize autonomous vehicle (AV) laws and regulations at the state. The U.S. government should also consider “specific tax or other incentives that support the research, development, manufacturing, and deployment of AVs in the United States.”

The incoming Biden administration will need to decide how to approach regulating self-driving vehicles.

Last month, U.S. regulators opened a formal regulatory proceeding that could eventually result in the adoption of new safety standards for autonomous vehicles.

Congress will try again in 2021 to try to approve long-stalled reforms to speed the adoption of self-driving cars as lawmakers have been divided for years over how to reform regulations governing self-driving cars and what consumer and legal protections should be included.

Self-driving cars suffered a major setback after the March 2018 death of a pedestrian in a crash with an Uber test vehicle, the first attributed to a self-driving car. The National Transportation Safety Board said in the Uber crash review that U.S. regulators should ensure automated vehicles have appropriate safeguards. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski)