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US spending plan includes US$100m for R&D of autonomous cars


A US SPENDING bill unveiled on Wednesday night includes US$100 million for a highly automated "vehicle research and development" programme and will include funding for assessing the job impact of self-driving cars.

On Sunday, a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona was struck by an Uber Technologies Inc self-driving SUV and died of her injuries, the first death in a crash involving an autonomous vehicle.

The car-sharing service grounded its fleet and has thrown into question when Congress might approve legislation to ease legal hurdles to the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The new funding includes US$60 million for grants "to fund demonstration projects that test the feasibility and safety" of self-driving vehicles, the spending agreement said.

Under the measure, funding will go to automated vehicle proving grounds, local governments or academic institutions but not to private companies.

The funding includes US$38 million for US agencies to conduct research into self-driving cars, including cybersecurity issues.

The US Transportation Department is "expected to prioritise research topics that fill gaps in research being conducted by the private sector" and "have the strongest potential to advance the safe deployment" of advanced vehicles.

Congress is also setting aside up to US$1.5 million to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the impact of self-driving vehicles on US employment, including the potential pace of job losses among truck, taxi and other commercial drivers, as well as the potential safety risks surrounding commercial autonomous vehicles. REUTERS