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Self-driving cars bill in Senate veers Into tricky truck debate

WASHINGTON — Senate negotiators released draft legislation meant to spur the introduction of self-driving vehicles, while indicating they were undecided if their measure would encompass trucks and buses.

The staff draft bill from Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., released on Friday included optional language that could extend it to all motor vehicles — a sign they are undecided about whether to include large commercial vehicles. Similar legislation passed by the House this week excluded vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds after facing pressure from labor unions.

The Senate commerce committee is scheduled to discuss the measure at a hearing next week, and the committee released the 29-page bill to get input from other lawmakers and lobbyists before it’s formally introduced for consideration.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the largest union for U.S. truck drivers, and other unions successfully lobbied to exclude commercial trucks from the House legislation, saying supplanting drivers could be unsafe and cost jobs.

Concerns over millions of U.S. jobs that could be threatened by autonomous tractor-trailers, buses and other commercial vehicles has become a key flash point for lawmakers pushing to establish a legal and regulatory framework so autonomous vehicles can be tested and deployed.

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