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The U.S. Congress will not pass self-driving car bill in 2018: senators

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress will not vote on a bill to increase the speed of the introduction of self-driving cars before it adjourns for the year, a blow to companies such as General Motors Co. and Alphabet, Inc Waymo device, key senators said on Wednesday.

A sign marks a part of a route is used for testing a driverless electric shuttle to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA 7 March 2018. REUTERS/Paul Lienert

The congress will also not be on a proposal pushed by GM and Tesla Inc. to renew or to extend a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles, the assistants said.

To win passage in the last days, the measures that were to be annexed to a bill introduced Wednesday to fund government operations, but they were not. The senators were given the funding bill, which can be approved as early as Wednesday by the U.S. Senate, is the only way forward for the Congress adjourns.

Republican Senator John Thune, who is chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, led the fight to win approval for more than a year and vowed Wednesday to try again next year.

Thune said that it is a “problem” if Congress does not act in 2019. “The technology is going to keep going,” Thune said. “We will start this again.”

Peters warned that the United States would be able to get outdone on the self-driving vehicles by China, South Korea and others who have “bet big on the technology and the development of the regulatory framework to adapt.”

Automaker lobbyists say that the measures will face tougher chances in 2019 if the Democrats and Republicans will share the control of the Congress.

The Alliance of automobile manufacturers, a trade group, called the bill is not “a setback for the development and the final deployment of potentially life-saving technologies, and leave many questions unanswered about how this technology will be regulated.”

The tax credit for Tesla buyers will fall for $3,750 on Jan. 1 and phase all the way to the end of 2019, the Internal Revenue Service said on Friday. Senator John Barrasso, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee proposed the end of the EV tax credit and the plans to reintroduce the measure in 2019, while car manufacturers plan to press for the credit for the expansion.

The U.S. House of Representatives legislation in 2017, and the speed of adoption of self-driving cars, and to bar states from setting standards of performance, but the legislation stalled in the Senate. Despite concessions from automakers, the bill could not overcome objections of some Democrats who argued that it is not enough to solve security problems.

Car manufacturers may instead contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which said it plans to make it easier to test self-driving vehicles.

In October, NHTSA said that it is considering a pilot program to real-world testing on the road for a limited number of vehicles without human supervision.

GM in January filed a petition seeking an exemption for the use of fully automated vehicles as part of a ride-part of the fleet that it plans to deploy in 2019, but the agency has not yet acted. On Tuesday, the agency said that it was the revision of the rules no longer have to declare petitions “complete” for the publication of a summary of the application.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Alistair Bell

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