Self-driving cars are zooming at breakneck speed toward America’s roadways, and Washington is finally reaching for its seatbelt.

For years, the race to create fully autonomous vehicles went mostly unnoticed by federal lawmakers, who tended to speak of self-driving cars (if they spoke of them at all) as something out of “The Jetsons.” It was an odd blind spot, given how close companies in Silicon Valley and Detroit were to creating mass-market autonomous vehicles, and how many important industries — taxi driving, long-haul trucking and shipping among them — stood to be drastically transformed as a result.