Self-Driving Vehicles Are Coming. Is Your State Ready?

California recently made headlines when they passed legislation that declared autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, must have a driver in them. All eyes seemed to turn to Texas, expecting the Lone Star state to win the heart of Google and pass legislation friendlier to the self-driving car of the future.

In reality, states have been passing legislation regarding self-driving cars since 2012. With Google, Tesla, Apple and several big name traditional auto manufacturers rumored to be exploring self-driving vehicles, surely other states are not far behind. These days it’s tough for legislation to keep up with technology, but when it comes to the safety of our roads, each state will surely make a valiant attempt.

Self-driving technology promises safer roads and possibly much more productive drive time. As my 8-year old daughter says, she wants a self-driving automobile when she turns 16 because that means she can play Minecraft when driving. And, I have to say, as her mother, I LOVE the idea of a self-driving car taking my 16-year-old around instead of her driving on her own.

Here’s an overview of the states that have passed legislation and the stance each state, so far, is taking on this exciting new technology.

California -

In 2012, California passed legislation requiring the Department of the California Highway Patrol to adopt safety standards and performance requirements to ensure the safe operation and testing of autonomous vehicles. Effective January 1, California passed additional legislation stating that autonomous vehicles must be driven with a driver.

Florida -

In 2012, Florida passed legislation also requiring that the vehicles are tested and performance standards adopted. This initial legislation also set a deadline for the Department of Highway Safety to submit a report with recommendations regarding these vehicles by February 12, 2014.

Florida is now taking this a step forward with a “vision of a connected car future” in which cars can be shared among multiple families and programmed to pick up people, take them somewhere, then arrive at the next location to drive someone else somewhere.

Florida also just hosted the “Automated Vehicles Summit” in Jacksonville, FL where folks could try out self-driving vehicles in Jacksonville, FL.

Michigan -
In 2013, the state most known for automobiles passed legislation defining automated vehicles and expressly permitting testing on public roadways. They also passed legislation limiting auto manufacturers liability regarding automated vehicles and upfitting vehicles with automated technology.

Nevada -

In 2011, Nevada introduced legislation defining automated vehicles and permitting their use. They also went a step forward, and when they passed legislation preventing cell phone use in a regular automobile, they specifically stated cell phones could be used in an automated self-driving vehicle, as a person is not operating such a vehicle.

In 2013, Nevada further updated legislation and placed limits on liability for manufacturers.

North Dakota -

In 2015 passed legislation that provides for a study of autonomous vehicles to evaluate safety and risk.

Tennessee -

In 2015, Tennessee legislators passed legislation that took the decision of autonomous vehicles out of local districts hands by prohibiting local governments from banning self-driving vehicles. The legislation did not, however, place any rules around self-driving vehicles in the state.

Washington DC -

In 2013, our capital passed legislation that defined self-driving vehicles and stated that a driver must be in any self-driving vehicle on DC streets.

Other States – Trying to Get it Together

The following states have legislation regarding self-driving legislation that is currently pending: Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Washington.

And, lastly, the following states proposed legislation in 2015 that failed to pass: Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, and Texas.

Here’s your FREE DMV question and answer. FREE DMV Question (answer at bottom of page):
Which of these vehicles must stop before crossing railroad tracks?
A – Tank trucks marked with hazardous material placards
B – Motor homes or pick up trucks towing a trailer
C – Sport utility vehicles carrying four or more passengers
Answer at bottom of the page. Happy New Year!


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Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for, making the roads safer one test taker at a time.

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