Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars under Google X, urged the Senate to allow for the creation of federal laws that will set regulations for driverless cars and allow them to hit the roads.
Urmson made his remarks to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology on Tuesday, stating that Congress has a "huge opportunity" to advance driverless cars by "enabling the U.S. Department of Transportation to pave the way for the deployment of this innovative safety technology," according to a press release outline Urmson's remarks.
"The leadership of the federal government is critically important given the growing patchwork of State laws and regulations on self-driving cars," Urmson said to the Senate.
He noted that Google was "disappointed" when California released draft regulations that would require a driver to sit behind the wheel of even fully autonomous cars. The draft regulations also require anyone who wants to operate an autonomous vehicle to undergo special training in addition to already having a normal license.
"Last December, we were disappointed that California released draft regulations for operation of autonomous vehicles that specifically excluded fully selfdriving cars, despite strong public support for this technology, particularly from the disability community," Urmson said.
Having each state make their own laws for driverless cars will "significantly hinder safety innovation, interstate commerce, national competitiveness, and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles," Urmson concluded.
But robotic experts on the committee urged the Senate from acting too soon, BBC reported.
Missy Cummings, director of Duke University's Humans and Autonomy laboratory, said she felt driverless car experiments have been "deficient," BBC reports.
"I perceive [there] to be a rush to field systems that are not ready for widespread deployment," Cummings said, according to BBC.
But Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey democrat, cautioned that if the US does not come up with a set of federal regulations it could fall behind other countries.
"We were the first to introduce legislation permitting the testing of autonomous vehicles, but other countries are now clearly leapfrogging over us by offering more flexibility to companies to test this technology," Booker said, according to BBC.
Google's driverless cars has driven over 1.4 million miles in autonomous mode — the equivalent of 108 years on the road, Urmson explained.
Google recently made headlines when its driverless car crashed into a bus in California. The cars have been in 17 minor accidents since 2012, but many would consider the bus incident the first time a Google car was at fault.