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House panel to unveil self-driving car legislation soon: aide

By David Shepardson

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Republicans expect to introduce bills later this week that would bar states from setting their own rules for self-driving cars and take other steps to remove obstacles to putting such vehicles on the road, a spokeswoman said.

The legislative action comes as major automakers are joining forces with auto suppliers and other groups to prod Congress into action.

Last month, a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing on a Republican draft package of 14 bills that would allow U.S. regulators to exempt up to 100,000 vehicles a year per manufacturer from federal motor vehicle safety rules that prevent the sale of self-driving vehicles without human controls.

Blair Ellis, a spokeswoman for the committee, said on Monday it was likely that legislation would be introduced this week and a formal hearing on the bills would occur next week.

Republican U.S. Representative Robert Latta said last month he hoped to win committee approval of a bipartisan legislative package by the end of July.

The draft measures would bar states from setting self-driving rules and prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from pre-approving self-driving car technologies.

Democrats say the NHTSA must play a more aggressive role in mandating self-driving car safety.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing General Motors Co <GM.N>, Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>, Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and others, and the Association of Global Automakers, representing major foreign automakers including Honda Motor Co <7267.T> and Hyundai Motor Corp <005380.KS>, are forming the Coalition for Future Mobility to press Congress to act.

The group, which includes the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, National Federation of the Blind and Securing America’s Future Energy, a group of corporate officials and retired military leaders, plans to begin airing radio ads on Tuesday portraying the legislation as "liberating innovation for self-driving vehicles."

GM, Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O>, Tesla Inc <TSLA.O> and others have been lobbying Congress to pre-empt rules under consideration in California and other states that could limit self-driving vehicle deployment.

The administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama last year unveiled voluntary guidelines on self-driving cars. President Donald Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has said she plans to quickly update those.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)