Senior Vice President, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
July 21, 2023
The United States is in a global race to develop the game-changing technologies that will determine which country will lead the 21st-century innovation economy. This competition is particularly evident on our nation's roadways with the rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
However, as this international contest for innovation leadership is underway, it is essential to grasp the profound impact these emerging technologies will have on American society.
To better understand what these impacts will be, a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, "Innovation Highway: Unlocking the Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles," authored by former U.S. Under-Secretary of Commerce Dr. Robert Shapiro uses advanced economic modeling to measure the substantial socio-economic benefits of autonomous vehicles. These benefits include fewer traffic accidents, enhanced mobility for seniors, disabled individuals, and non-drivers, improved air quality, and vast economic possibilities.
The report's findings also serve as a roadmap for policymakers and regulators to cultivate conditions that maximize AV technology’s potential while fostering innovation and competition.
Watch: The Future of Autonomous Vehicles
The study reveals the following potential benefits of autonomous vehicles when they comprise 25 percent of the U.S. motor vehicle fleet, with 2021 as the baseline.
- Increased safety: Autonomous vehicles could prevent 1,442,000 accidents and 12,000 fatalities, resulting in economic savings of $94 billion.
- Enhanced mobility and access: Autonomous vehicles could increase annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by persons with disabilities by 4.6 billion miles, elderly individuals by 4.9 billion miles, and nondrivers by 2.4 billion miles.
- Strengthened economic competitiveness: The growing AV sector is critical to bolstering the future of America’s motor vehicle industry—which employs over 4 million people—as well as enabling the growth of new and existing industries key to economic growth and competitiveness. Moreover, the mobility benefits of AVs also include gains in jobs and income for nondrivers, disabled people, and people living in areas with limited access to public transit.
Global AV Leadership
As Dr. Shapiro said, "the country that leads the world in autonomous vehicle innovation will set the rules of the road for a generation."
In analyzing the safety, mobility, climate, and economic benefits of AVs, the report addresses the geopolitical implications of the emergence of AVs in U.S. and global markets. Specifically, the report cautions that American producers will face strong competition from China and other foreign competitors—further necessitating American leadership in AV innovation.
Timeline of AV Adoption
While the timeline for widespread AV adoption varies—with some experts predicting it to be within the next 5-15 years—policymakers can accelerate this timeline by adopting a national AV framework and revising safety standards to promote the continued innovation and development of this technology.
The U.S. Chamber has been calling for policymakers to take the necessary action to advance the development and implementation of this guidance. These recommendations include:
- Enact a national AV regulatory framework: Congress must enact a targeted national regulatory framework for AVs that increases the number of exemptions for innovative motor designs, expands AV testing, directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to modernize motor vehicle safety laws, and preserves the ability for the federal government to regulate the safety of AVs.
- Modernize existing safety regulations: The U.S. Department of Transportation must update its existing safety regulations to accommodate novel motor vehicle designs, such as AVs, and create an effective national demonstration and deployment program to expediate the commercialization of AVs.