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How States Are Bringing Self-Driving Cars to the Road


Bronwyn Flores, Specialist, Policy Communications, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)
The growing patchwork of state regulations across the country is one of the biggest challenges facing the development and implementation of these technologies.

Self-driving car technology is changing our lives for the better – enhancing mobility, increasing fuel efficiency, reducing traffic congestion and, above all, enhancing safety on our nation’s roads and highways. But the growing patchwork of state regulations across the country is one of the biggest challenges facing the development and implementation of these technologies.

CTA’s latest Innovation Scorecard – for the first time – tracked how all 50 U.S. states have responded to the rise of driverless cars. While most states don’t have any restrictions on the book, 11 states have passed bills specific to driverless cars. Some states, such as a Michigan, are opening their roads to innovation, while others, such as Tennessee, are making rules that could hinder driverless car testing and overall growth of the industry.

Here’s a rundown of some of the driverless car bills tracked in this year’s Scorecard:

Open Road Ahead
In 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of driverless car bills which clearly opens the state to testing and companies looking to invest. The new laws expand testing and operation to include without a licensed driver present, allow truck platooning, prohibit fees on self-driving vehicles, allow self-driving ridesharing projects and addresses manufacturer liability concerns.

Paving the Road
Alabama, Florida and Utah passed laws which help pave the road for driverless car growth in their state – but stop at fully endorsing these new technologies. Alabama’s SJR 81 establishes a committee to study self-driving cars and directs an audit on current state laws that may impede self-driving vehicles testing and operation. Florida’s HB 7027 allows anyone with a valid driver’s license to operate a self-driving car. It also eliminates the requirement, during testing, that a driver is present. HB 7027 requires autonomous vehicles meet applicable federal safety standards and regulations. Utah’s HB 280 enacted, requires a driverless car study to make recommendations for future state action.

Middle of the Road
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s issued an Executive Order in 2016 to create a driverless car working group to work with industry experts on vehicle safety and automation, proposed legislation and create an open dialogue between the state’s department of transportation and companies on their self-driving plans.

Under the Speed Limit
At the other end of the spectrum, Tennessee’s SB 1561 sets rules which could hinder the growth of the industry in the state. Tennessee’s new driverless car law, passed in 2016, enables testing and operation of self-driving vehicles, but requires a new certification program for manufacturers, a special license requirements for operators, and mandates a per-mile tax. The law also only allows operation by a fleet service provider when certified by the state department of transportation.

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To see how your state ranked, check out the “Open Skies and Roads” category in the 2016 Innovation Scorecard.

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