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Google wants Congress to create new federal powers that would let the tech giant receive special, expedited permission to bring to market a self-driving car that has no steering wheel or pedals.
The proposal, laid out in a letter to top federal transportation officials, reveals Google's solution to a major regulatory roadblock: U.S. law does not permit the mainstream deployment of cars with the design Google has been advancing, which would not allow a person to drive.
The cars may sound futuristic, but Google has dropped increasingly strong hints that its self-driving technology — tested for several years on public roads in California and elsewhere — could be ready for early adopters sooner than the public expects. The tech giant's push to clear roadblocks in federal law reinforces that confidence.
In a letter sent Friday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the head of Google's self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, sketched out the idea of new federal authority for self-driving cars that he floated without details at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday.
Under Google's proposed framework, a company that could show its vehicles passed federal safety standards could receive special permission from transportation regulators to sell them. The government could set conditions that limit use based on safety concerns, and would be obligated to review the application in a "tight but realistic" time frame.
The typical process for making new rules takes years.
Granting the new authority would bring "enormous potential safety benefits ... quite promptly with appropriate safety conditions and full public input," according to a summary of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.