Indiana benefits greatly from a strong interstate highway system that connects us to markets across the country. While we are able to move goods and people easily between several cities, highways have always posed three primary concerns: safety, environmental ramifications, and traffic. Self-driving vehicles, however, hold the promise to address these issues, while also contributing to Indiana's economic health.

The deployment of self-driving cars will help save lives. In 2016 alone, over 30,000 people lost their lives as a result of car crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The overwhelming majority of these crashes were due to human error. Self-driving cars won’t get distracted nor will they drink and drive.

Self-driving vehicles will also reduce emissions since most of these vehicles are expected to be electric. Lastly, as more and more self-driving vehicles hit the road, they will rely on advanced sensors and GPS technology to help ensure a steady flow of traffic.

The benefits to the public are clear. Less known, though, are the benefits self-driving vehicles will bring to the economy. Auto manufacturing plays a crucial role in the state’s economy, employing tens of thousands of Hoosiers at hundreds of locations. Indiana’s auto sector is well positioned to create products and develop smarter and safer infrastructure for the new era of transportation.

Before these benefits are realized to their fullest potential, the U.S. Congress must act. A bill before the Senate, the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act (the AV START Act), will help ensure enhanced safety oversight, reinforce state and local roles, and reduce barriers to deployment.

A similar measure in the U.S. House of Representatives passed easily last fall. But time is of the essence; China and the rest of the world are quickly moving forward with this innovative technology. America cannot be left behind. American manufacturers are here and ready to help pave the way for the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles on our streets.

Over the past ten years, the Indiana Manufacturers Association has successfully advocated for improvements to transportation across the state. In addition to supporting over $1 billion in road infrastructure improvements, we’ve stood behind the “Major Moves” initiative, which invested significantly in improvements to major roadways like I-69. In projects like these, we have demonstrated the critical role manufacturers can play in improving transportation to pave the way for public safety and improved mobility. To us, the AV START Act is the next step in this process. That’s why we urge Senators Donnelly and Young to support this essential legislation.

Brian Burton is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Manufacturers Association.