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Texas lawmakers put self-driving cars to the test

The Texas House Transportation Committee was briefed on progress on autonomous car regulations Wednesday at the State Capitol, and some say recent concerns about crashes are actually driving the technology forward.

"We heard today that 94 percent of all the accidents are caused by human error," said Committee Chair State Rep. Joe Pickett, (D-El Paso).

Those numbers were presented by DPS troopers at the meeting, and State Rep. Pickett says he agrees self-driving cars could reduce crashes.

"And so anytime we can interject technology, especially a safety factor, it's going to be phenomenal," said Pickett.

Major automakers, like GM, came to explain their progress to the committee. They said the cars would first be manned by so-called "AV trainers."

Liability in the case of a crash remains one of the unknowns, as the technology continues to advance. Right now the self-driving cars rely heavily on local infrastructure, like signage, and that begs the question of whose fault it would be when the infrastructure isn't there, resulting in wreck.

"And somebody will be, even though there is not necessarily a driver. There is an entity or a person, somebody that owns that vehicle," said Pickett.

Leighton Yates with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says such bumps in the road will be worked out and well worth it when it comes to safety and mobility improvements.

"Some ancillary benefits are for the disabled and the elderly. They'll be able to get from point A to point B, without having to rely on operating the vehicle," Yates said.

He also says crashes are actually accelerating safety improvements.

"While they do happen, it's unfortunate, but it also helps with the development of the technology, and to learn from those mistakes, to make sure they don't happen in the future," Yates said.

He and other industry leaders testified Wednesday, with hopes that future state laws won't put the brakes on Texas test drives.

"I don't think the legislature should hinder it. I think we should encourage it," Pickett said.

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