Eighteen members of Congress tested a driverless car designed by Carnegie Mellon University on Tuesday, delighting in the new technology they say is a momentous innovation.
"Who would have ever thought we'd be sitting here talking about autonomous vehicles," said Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "George Jetson may be a reality," he told ABC News
The vehicle, a retrofitted 2011 Cadillac SRX, houses a computer that controls the car in the trunk compartment normally reserved for a spare tire. Lasers and other electronic sensors surround the outside of the vehicle, monitoring for both stationary and moving objects, and helping communicate with the systems aboard other smartcars.
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Shuster said that as Congress shapes a new transportation funding bill, driverless cars should be considered.
"Autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies have significant potential to increase transportation safety and efficiency," he explained. "The future of transportation is coming quickly, and it’s important to provide policymakers with opportunities to gain a better understanding of these kinds of innovations."
At first, passengers were nervous about riding in the passenger and back seats, but were reassured that a driver, who was placed in the driver's seat in case the car needed to be manually overridden, would keep them safe no matter what. The passengers reported that they quickly adjusted however, and ultimately enjoyed the ride.
"By the time we were in it for 10 minutes we were just chatting it up and checking our email," said Peter Rogoff, acting under secretary of Transportation for Policy for the administration.
The Hill reported
that the representatives scheduled to take a spin in the driverless car were a diverse mix of members from both parties and a number of different states, including John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
A reporter from Yahoo News Tweeted a map she created of the car's route, which crossed the Potomac River.
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