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Have you ever wished you could read, work, text, or even sleep while your car did the driving for you? That’s no longer a futuristic fantasy. Experts anticipate an autonomous revolution in the next one to two years.
Here are the cold, hard facts (2017 preliminary estimates):
- 40,100 people were killed on America’s roads in traffic accidents
- Motor vehicle deaths have increased by six percent in two short years
- 4.57 million people received injuries that required medical attention
- The medical attention for injuries alone costs our nation $413.8 million
Studies have proven over 90 percent of traffic deaths are caused by human error. Therefore, a vehicle programmed to drive itself (without error) becomes the solution to finally putting an end to the over 40,000 people that are being killed each and every year in the United States (by humans)!
An automated vehicle operates without direct driver input to control steering, acceleration, and braking. It is designed so that the driver does not need to constantly monitor the road.
Here’s what you’ll find below:
- The Six Levels of Autonomous Vehicles
- Rules Governing Autonomous Vehicles
- Ethics of Autonomous Vehicles
- List of States with Passed Laws or Orders
- States with Pending, Failed, or No Laws
- Our Methodology and List of References
What determines if a car is truly self-driving?
There are specific ratings that define every vehicle’s level of automation. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has designed a zero to five rating system detailing the varying levels of automation — the higher the level, the more automated the vehicle is.
- Level Zero: No Automation – The driver is responsible to do all the driving without any help from the vehicle
- Level One: Driver Assistance – The vehicle helps steer or speed up/slow down, but the motorist performs all other duties
- Level Two: Partial Automation – The vehicle helps with one or more systems while the motorist does the rest
- Level Three: Conditional Automation – The vehicle completes all duties, but the motorist intervenes when necessary
- Level Four: High Automation – The vehicle completes all driving duties even if the driver does not intervene
- Level Five: Full Automation – The vehicle completes all duties without a driver on all roads in all conditions
Here is a visual provided by SAE:
What levels of self-driving cars are on the roads now?
Many companies have developed self-driving cars at varying levels of autonomy, but GM, Waymo, and Aptiv are front-runners in the race to getting fully autonomous vehicles on the market. All three companies plan to have their self-driving taxis servicing U.S. public roads by 2019.
What are the rules in the U.S. on self-driving cars?
The United States Department of Transportation created specific guidelines for all manufacturers to follow in the development and testing of autonomous vehicles.
“The Policy is rooted in DOT’s view that automated vehicles hold enormous potential benefits for safety, mobility and sustainability.”
The federal and state responsibilities are listed below.
|Federal Responsibilities||State Responsibilities|
|Setting safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment||Licensing human drivers and registering motor vehicles in their jurisdictions|
|Enforcing compliance with the established safety standards||Enacting and enforcing traffic laws and regulations|
|Investigating and managing the recall and remedy of non-compliance and defects nationwide||Conducting safety inspections, when necessary|
|Communicating with and educating the public about motor vehicle safety issues||Regulating motor vehicle insurance and liability|
|When necessary, issuing guidance to achieve national safety goals|
“The federal government will regulate the design, construction, and performance, and states will regulate traffic laws, law enforcement, licensing and registration, driver education, and more.” – U.S. Energy & Commerce
What are self-driving car ethics?
Truly autonomous vehicles will eventually have to make hard choices in which all options include a fatality. The decision will have to programmed into the vehicle’s operating system.
The problem with ethics is that often, there’s not a black or white answer. Whose life should be saved? The elderly man in the crosswalk or the pregnant woman on the sidewalk?
To get a better understanding of the majority opinion on such ethical matters, MIT launched the Moral Machine. In this survey, MIT collected millions of responses from around the globe.
Key findings are that people tend to choose the following:
- Young over old
- Humans over animals
- Few over many
Even though there were some geographical differences in the findings, like people in Asia chose saving young over old less than in other parts of the globe, the choices made throughout the world showed fairly consistent moral choices.
Having a vehicle make these types of ethical decisions can be an uncomfortable thought, but as automation on the roadway grows, it’s a subject that must be dealt with.
Which states allow self-driving cars on their public roads?
The name United States of America is a bit deceiving. The states are not united when it comes to most laws — including those governing autonomous vehicles.
29 states plus D.C. have passed legislation, 10 states have executive orders made by their governors, 9 states have laws that are pending or have failed during the voting process, and the remaining states have yet to take any action.
Because current laws require a licensed driver in the vehicle, the driver-less cars are causing a big change in state regulations.
States with Passed Legislation
- April 2016: Established the Joint Legislative Committee to study self-driving vehicles.
- March 2018: Allowed self-driving trucks to be exempt from certain traffic laws when they are controlled by electronically coordinated speeds and electronic brake coordination.
- March 2017: Approved the testing of vehicles with autonomous technology under regulation. This bill also allowed for self-driving truck platooning systems.
- September 2012: Required the Department of Highway Patrol to establish safety standards and performance requirements to ensure the safe operation and testing of autonomous vehicles on its public roads. This bill also permitted autonomous vehicles to be operated and tested on public roads as long as they meet the standards and requirements outlined.
- August 2016: Allowed the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to test autonomous vehicles that didn’t have steering wheels, brake pedals, gas pedals, or an operator inside the vehicle. The testing was allowed only at specific locations and under certain speeds.
- April 2017: Requested that its DOT use funds from its Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program to advance technologies to accommodate advanced automotive technologies including: charging/fueling for zero-emission vehicles and provision of infrastructure-to-vehicle communications for autonomous vehicle systems.
- October 2017: California passed three bills regarding autonomous vehicles, which went into effect on the 4th and 12th.
- Extended the date that autonomous test vehicles could travel with less than 100 feet between each vehicle from January 2018 to January 2020. Testing only allowed with valid driver’s license for the class of the vehicle.
- Authorized the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority to test autonomous vehicles without a driver in the driver’s seat, steering wheel, brake pedal, or gas pedal.
- Repealed the requirement that the Department of Motor Vehicles notifies the Legislature upon receipt of an application seeking approval to operate an autonomous vehicle without a driver and also repealed the effective date requirements.
- June 2017: Allowed individuals to use an automated driving system to drive or control a function if the system complies with every state and federal law. Required approval for vehicle testing if the vehicle cannot comply with every law. Required the DOT to submit a report on the testing of automated driving systems.
- June 2017: Required the development of AV pilot programs. Required an operator to be seated in the driver’s seat and have proof of insurance of at least $5 million. Established a task force that must: study autonomous vehicles, evaluate NHTSA’s AV standards, evaluate laws in other states, provide recommendations on how to legislate/regulate AVs, and evaluate the test programs.
– District of Columbia
- January 2013: Required a human driver to be prepared to take control, restricted conversion to recent vehicles, and addressed the liability of the original manufacturer.
- July 2018: Gave its Department of Transportation one year to have a study publicly available that evaluates and makes recommendations regarding autonomous vehicles under eight specific categories.
- July 2012: Declared legislative intent to encourage the development, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles. Determined that the state would not prohibit/regulate the testing/operation of autonomous vehicles. Required a valid driver’s license and insurance of operators of autonomous vehicles. Directed its Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to prepare a report with additional legislation for the safe testing and operation of autonomous vehicles to be submitted by February 12, 2014.
- July 2016: Florida passed two bills that became effective on July 1st.
- Permitted operation of AVs on public roads by individuals with a valid driver license. This bill eliminated the requirements that it be a testing vehicle and have a driver present. Required autonomous vehicles to meet federal safety standards.
- Required a study on the use and operation of autonomous truck platooning technology and allowed a pilot project once completed.
- July 2017: Georgia passed two bills that became effective on July 1st.
- Specified that the law prohibiting following too closely does not apply to the non-leading vehicle in a group of motor vehicles traveling in the same lane, utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology to automatically coordinate their movements.
- Made operators of automated vehicles exempt from the requirement to have a driver’s license. Specified requirements for a vehicle to operate without a human driver in the vehicle, including insurance and registration.
- August 2017: Prevented local authorities from prohibiting autonomous vehicles.
- July 2018: Clarified that vehicles traveling under electronic coordination are exempt from the following-too-close provisions of 300 feet. The bill explained the approval system for vehicle platooning, including requiring a plan for operations with the transportation commissioner.
- March 2018: Allowed commercial vehicles to operate in a platoon if the carrier provides notification to the Department of Vehicle Regulation and the Kentucky State Police. The DVR has 30 days to review the notification and approve or reject it. This bill required a driver with a commercial driver’s license to be behind the wheel and that each vehicle displays a marking stating that it’s part of a platoon.
- May 2018: Authorized non-lead vehicles in a platoon to follow other vehicles in a platoon closely. Allowed commercial platoon operation with approval from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Department of Transportation and Development.
- April 2018: Established the Commission on Autonomous Vehicles. Requirements include: develop a process to evaluate/authorize AV testing, review existing laws, recommend legislation, monitor compliance with federal regulations, consult with public and private sectors, and ask stakeholders for comments. This bill also required the Commissioner of Transportation to establish rules and a process to evaluate/authorize AV testing and was granted authority to prohibit testing if it risks public safety or fails to comply with requirements.
- December 2013: Permitted testing of automated vehicles under conditions and addressed liability of the vehicle manufacturer.
- March 2014: Limited liability of manufacturer for damages resulting from modifications made to an automated vehicle.
- December 2016: Michigan passed three bills that became effective on December 9th.
- Allowed autonomous vehicles under certain conditions. Allowed operation without a person in the autonomous vehicle.
- Specified that the requirement that vehicles maintain a minimum 500 feet following distance doesn’t apply to vehicles in a platoon.
- Allowed mobility research centers for automated technology testing. Provided immunity for automated technology manufacturers when modifications are made without consent.
- March 2017: Made mechanics and repair shops exempt from liability when fixing automated vehicles.
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- April 2018: This bill made an exemption in the following too closely law for the operator of a non-lead vehicle in a platoon (vehicles traveling in a unified manner at electronically coordinated speeds). A platoon is allowed after an operator files a plan for approval with the Department of Transportation and of Public Safety. The Motor Carrier Division shall develop standards required for platoon plans.
- April 2018: Allowed a driverless vehicle to operate on public roads without a human driver in the vehicle, as long as the vehicle is capable of minimal risk if malfunction occurs and if it operates in compliance with traffic laws. Operators must submit proof of financial responsibility, and the vehicle must be covered by insurance. The bill also allowed on-demand driverless vehicle networks for transporting people and goods. AVs must stay at the scene of an accident and the owner must report all crashes. This bill also explained that the state and any subdivisions are not permitted to impose requirements, taxes, or standards on AVs or on-demand networks.
- June 2011: Nevada passed two bills on June 17th.
- June 2013: Required proof of insurance from autonomous vehicle operators and that the vehicle meets state standards. Made the manufacturer of a 3rd party converted vehicle immune from liability.
- June 2017: Allowed use of autonomous platooning on highways. Required crashes be reported to the DMV in 10 days if resulting in damages over $750. Allowed a fine of up to $2,500 for violations of AV regulations. Allowed fully autonomous vehicles without a human operator. Specified that the following distance rule doesn’t apply to vehicles in a platoon. Imposed an excise tax on autonomous vehicles used for transportation services. Permitted AV use by carriers and taxi companies under conditions.
– New York
- January 2017: Allowed the commissioner of motor vehicles to approve AV tests and demonstrations. Required police supervision for testing. Specified requirements for operation including insurance of $5 million. Required a report on testing and demonstration.
- January 2018: This bill further required AV testing to follow guidelines from the police superintendent. A law enforcement interaction plan must be included in the application, including how first responders should interact with AVs in emergency situations.
– North Carolina
- July 2017: North Carolina passed two bills on July 21st.
- Established regulations for the operation of fully autonomous vehicles. Specified that a driver’s license is not required for an AV operator. Required an adult to be in the vehicle with a child under 12 years old. Established the Fully Autonomous Vehicle Committee.
- Modified the following-too-closely law to allow for vehicle platooning.
– North Dakota
- January 2015: Began a study on autonomous vehicles. Required research on how much AVs could reduce fatalities and crashes, reduce congestion, and improve fuel economy.
- January 2017: Required the DOT to study the use of autonomous systems on highways and the data gathered by them. Also required a review of current laws on licensing, registration, insurance, data ownership/use, and inspection and how they should apply to AVs.
- March 2018: Oregon passed two bills on March 3rd.
- Made an operator of a vehicle part of a connected automated braking system (using vehicle-to-vehicle communication) exempt from the following-too-closely law.
- Established a Task Force on Autonomous Vehicles and clarified that the DOT is responsible for coordinating AV programs and policies. Task force required to recommend legislation on licensing, registration, law enforcement, accident reporting, cybersecurity, insurance, and liability in regard to AVs. Also requested to study long-term effects of AVs regarding land use, road/infrastructure design, public transit, workforce changes, and state responsibilities relating to privacy. The task force required to submit a report by September 15, 2018.
- July 2016: Allowed the use of up to $40 million for intelligent transportation system applications, including autonomous and connected vehicle technology.
– South Carolina
- May 2017: Specified that minimum following distance laws do not apply to any non-leading vehicle traveling in a platoon.
- April 2015: Prohibited local governments from banning motor vehicles equipped with autonomous technology.
- March 2016: Allowed vehicles to be operated and equipped with integrated electronic display visible to the operator while the vehicle’s autonomous technology is engaged.
- May 2016: Redefined and further clarified “autonomous technology” applicable to the laws governing electronic displays in vehicles.
- April 2017: Permitted the operation of a platoon after the operator provides notification to the Departments of Transportation and Safety.
- June 2017: Created the “Automated Vehicles Act.” Modified laws relating to unattended vehicles, child restraints, seat belts, and crash reporting for AVs. Specified that AVs are exempt from licensing requirements. Permitted AVs without a driver in the vehicle under certain conditions. Specified that an AV is considered a driver for liability purposes. Made it a Class A Misdemeanor to operate a vehicle without a driver if not meeting the requirements of this Act. Specified that this Act only applies to vehicles in high or full automation mode.
- September 2017: Texas passed two bills that became effective on September 1st.
- Allowed the use of a connected (electronically coordinated) braking system to maintain the appropriate distance between vehicles.
- Specified that the owner of an AV is the operator when the system is engaged and the system is considered licensed to operate the vehicle. Allowed an AV to operate without a human driver in the vehicle under certain requirements.
- May 2015: Authorized the DOT to conduct a connected vehicle technology testing program.
- May 2016: Required a study on AVs that evaluates NHTSA and AAMVA standards, determines appropriate safety features and strategies, and develops recommendations.
- May 2018: Allowed connected platooning systems with vehicle-to-vehicle communication to electronically coordinate the speed and braking of one or more following vehicles.
- May 2017: Required the DOT to convene a meeting of stakeholders with expertise on AVs. The Secretary of Transportation must report to the House and Senate committees regarding the meetings and recommendations related to AVs, including proposed legislation.
- April 2016: Allowed the viewing of a visual display while a vehicle is being operated autonomously.
- March 2018: The Washington State Transportation Commission ordered to convene an executive and legislative work group to develop policy recommendations in regard to AVs on public roads in the state.
- April 2018: Created an exception for platoons to the traffic law requiring the operator of a truck weighing over 10,000 pounds to maintain a distance of at least 500 feet behind the vehicle ahead.
States with Executive Orders
- August 2015: Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order instructing various agencies to take necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads. He also ordered pilot programs to be allowed at select universities.
- March of 2018: Governor Ducey issued an updated executive order requiring Arizona to keep up with the new automated technology, make advancements to prepare for fully automated vehicles, and to ensure all automated driving systems follow state and federal guidelines.
- September 2017: Governor John Carney signed an executive order establishing the Advisory Council on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, tasked with developing recommendations for tools and strategies to prepare its transportation network for autonomous vehicles.
- November 2017: Governor David Ige released an executive order establishing a connected autonomous vehicles (CAV) contact in the governor’s office and required government agencies to work with companies to allow self-driving vehicle testing.
- January 2018: Governor C.L. Otter signed an executive order to create the Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Testing and Deployment Committee to support the testing and use of autonomous vehicles; discuss adjustments on vehicle registration, licensing, insurance, traffic regulations, and operator liabilities; identify laws that impede the testing/deployment of autonomous vehicles; and identify partnerships to leverage the benefits of these vehicles.
- January 2018: Governor Paul LePage issued an executive order to create the Maine Highly Automated Vehicles (HAV) Advisory Committee to oversee the introduction of automated vehicles and assess, develop, and implement recommendations for projects that advance these technologies. The order also required permits for testing automated vehicles.
- October 2016: Governor Charlie Baker released an executive order to promote the testing and deployment of autonomous technologies. The order established a group asked to: work with experts on AV safety, work with members of the legislature on proposed laws, and facilitate agreements between AV companies and state departments.
- March 2018: Governor Mark Dayton issued an executive order establishing a Governor’s Advisory Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles assigned to study, assess, and prepare for the adoption of automated vehicles.
- January 2018: Governor John Kasich signed an executive order to establish DriveOhio, which was assigned to help those building the infrastructure to work together with those developing the autonomous driving technology. This order outlined the goal of reducing crashes and traffic.
- May 2018: Kasich signed another order allowing autonomous vehicle testing in the state. The order explains that companies must register with DriveOhio, submit information on their companies, and follow various guidelines. The order required that autonomous test vehicles have an operator, but he/she doesn’t need to be inside the vehicle.
- June 2017: Governor Jay Inslee released an executive order to establish an autonomous vehicle work group. The order required state agencies to support the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles. The order listed requirements for autonomous vehicles with and without a human operator in the vehicle.
- May 2017: Governor Scott Walker signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Steering Committee on Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Testing and Deployment. The committee was tasked with advising the governor on how to advance the testing/operation of AVs. The duties of the committee included: identifying agencies with jurisdiction over AV deployment; coordinating with the agencies on issues regarding vehicle registration, licensing, insurance, traffic regulations, equipment standards, and vehicle owner/operator responsibilities; and reviewing laws that impede testing/deployment.
States with Pending/Failed Legislation or No Action Taken
Not all attempts to pass legislation have been successful. Several states have attempted but failed, and some have yet to do anything at all.
“Sixteen states introduced legislation related to autonomous vehicles in 2015, up from 12 states in 2014, nine states and D.C. in 2013, and six states in 2012. Since 2012, at least 41 states and D.C. have considered legislation related to autonomous vehicles.” – National Conference of State Legislatures
|New Jersey||Missouri||Rhode Island|
|New Mexico||West Virginia||South Dakota|
The Future Is Here
The wheels of change are in motion and manufacturers have enormous incentive to innovate — and fast. Most states have been working diligently since 2011 to form their own detailed legislation regarding autonomous vehicles.
Nevada was the very first state to allow autonomous vehicles to operate on its public roadways, and since then, 29 other states (including D.C.) have followed this bold yet wise lead.
As you can see above, over half of the U.S. have passed legislation, but the degree to which autonomous vehicles are allowed varies greatly from state to state.
The 14 states without set laws on AVs have quite a bit of catching up to do . . . especially the nine states that have failed legislation or have yet to take any action on this monumental issue.
Don’t fall behind. Whether or not you have a vehicle with autonomous features, you need car insurance to protect your investment. Use our FREE tool to start comparing a few policies now.
We are tracking all states’ automated vehicle efforts and laws. Our team will continue to update this article as legislative changes are made. The definitions given are based on the SAE’s Six Levels of Automation (see above).
The above complete list of state laws regarding autonomous vehicles was updated in October 2018.
The laws, dates, and statistics in this article were directly linked in the article and backed by the following reputable sources:
- National Conference of State Legislatures
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- The Society of Automotive Engineers
To view our study spreadsheet with the current legislation status and the date the last action was made for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, click here.