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US Congress will not pass bill on self-driving cars in 2018: senators

Washington

THE US Congress will not vote on a bill to speed up the introduction of self-driving cars before it adjourns for the year, a blow to companies like General Motors Co and Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit, key senators said on Wednesday.

Congress will also not take up a proposal pushed by GM and Tesla Inc to extend or expand a US$7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles, the aides said.

To win passage in the final days, the measures had to be attached to a bill introduced on Wednesday to fund government operations, but they were not. Senators conceded the funding bill, which could be approved as early as Wednesday by the US Senate, was the only way forward before Congress adjourns.

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Republican Senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee, and Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, led the battle to win approval for more than a year and vowed on Wednesday to try again next year.

Mr Thune said it is a "problem" if Congress does not act in 2019. "The technology is going to keep going," he said. "We'll start this up again."

Mr Peters warned that the United States could get surpassed on self driving vehicles by China, South Korea and others who "are betting big on the technology and they are developing the regulatory framework to accommodate it".

Carmaker lobbyists say the measures will face tougher odds in 2019 when Democrats and Republicans will share control of Congress. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, called the bill's failure "a setback for the development and ultimate deployment of potentially life-saving technologies, and leaves many unanswered questions on how this technology will be regulated".

The tax credit for Tesla buyers will fall to US$3,750 on Jan 1 and will phase out entirely by the end of 2019, the Internal Revenue Service said on Friday. REUTERS