Autonomous Vehicle Legislation: Status Updates


Note: This article was written by Ryan J. Stevens and appears on the Duane Morris Government Strategies blog.

Autonomous vehicles have automated driving systems that allow autonomous driving, with little or no human intervention. While fully automated vehicles are not readily available at this point, lawmakers are already taking action with a myriad of autonomous vehicle laws. As we’ve seen with e-bikes, drones, and personal delivery devices, government regulation isn’t far behind the new technology.

At least 29 states have already passed various autonomous vehicle laws.

Connecticut One piece of autonomous vehicle legislation introduced by Connecticut lawmakers is HB 6486. The bill would require the Connecticut Department of Transportation to develop a program to test and operate vehicles equipped with automated driving systems. It would also eliminate the autonomous vehicle testing pilot program (which never got off the ground).

Typically, the bill would require the Department of Transportation to pass regulations that include both state and federal laws and national best practices on testing. In addition, it would establish application requirements for owners of vehicles equipped with ADS to apply for permission to test or operate their autonomous vehicles on national roads. In addition, the bill would require that vehicles equipped with ADS meet federal safety standards, be licensed and properly insured.

The bill would define a fully autonomous vehicle as an “ADS equipped vehicle” with an automated driving system designed to operate without an operator and classified as level four or level five by the SAE. The bill would further define “ADS” (automated driving system) as the hardware and software that are collectively capable of performing the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis.

Florida Florida lawmakers recently passed HB 1289 for autonomous vehicles. Under the bill, a low-speed autonomous delivery vehicle would be allowed to operate on streets or highways with speed limits of less than 35 miles per hour or less. However, the vehicle can run between 35 and 45 miles per hour with certain exceptions.

Autonomous vehicle legislation further requires that low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles be equipped with headlights, stop lights, turn signals, taillights, reflex reflectors and vehicle identification numbers. The bill also requires that these vehicles be covered by an auto insurance policy. It allows counties and municipalities to ban low-speed vehicles on any road under its jurisdiction if necessary in the interest of public safety.

The bill defines a “low-speed autonomous delivery vehicle” as a fully autonomous vehicle not designed for or capable of occupying a person.

Massachusetts H. 3475, introduced by lawmakers this year, would require autonomous vehicles registered in Massachusetts to be state-registered to continue to meet federal motor vehicle standards and regulations. Autonomous vehicle legislation states that these vehicles must not engage in interstate commerce or carry eight or more people or rental goods unless a human operator is present in the autonomous vehicle. They can monitor the performance of the vehicle and intervene if necessary.

Nevada Nevada became the first state to allow the operation of automated vehicles in 2011 through Assembly Bill 511. In the 2021 legislative session, the Nevada Assembly passed AB 412, which relates to vehicles without neighborhood occupant, defined as low-speed vehicles not designed, intended, or marketed for human occupation.

Under the bill, vehicles without a neighborhood occupant would be allowed to travel on a roadway with a speed limit greater than 35 miles per hour but no more than 45 miles per hour.

New Jersey New Jersey lawmakers passed Joint Assembly Resolution 164 in 2019, creating the New Jersey Advanced Autonomous Vehicle Task Force. The task force was created to conduct a study on advanced autonomous vehicles and make recommendations on laws and rules.

The resolution called on the task force to issue a report to the governor and the legislature within 180 days of the task force’s initial meeting. The report was to include:

  1. an assessment of existing state laws that may hinder the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads in New Jersey,
  2. an assessment of existing state and federal laws relating to autonomous vehicles with respect to licensing, registration, insurance, liability, law enforcement and
  3. accident reports, land use, road and infrastructure design, transit and workforce changes.

The working group was also to make recommendations for the implementation of pilot programs for autonomous vehicles on public roads and to assess the laws and regulations in force in other states concerning the matter.

The task force created by AJR 164 released its report in 2020, which included the recommendation to establish a two-step authorization process to allow companies to test and then use HAVs (highly autonomous vehicles) on the roads. public gardens of the Garden State. The task force also recommended the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission as the primary body responsible for approving and overseeing the testing and deployment of HAVs in the state and recommended requiring that all tests on public roads are carried out with a safety driver present in all vehicles.

Legislatively, A1189 would establish a fully autonomous vehicle pilot program. The bill would require the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, in consultation with the state Department of Transportation, to establish the New Jersey Fully Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program, allowing autonomous vehicle testers to operate vehicles fully autonomous on New Jersey highways. The pilot program would last for one year under the law.

Texas Texas had already passed autonomous vehicle legislation in 2017, allowing the testing and deployment of automated vehicles on public roads.

Texas lawmakers introduced HB 3026 in the current legislative session. Under the bill, an autonomous vehicle designed to operate exclusively by the automated driving system for all journeys is not subject to any motor vehicle equipment laws or regulations in Texas that relate to or support the driving of ‘a motor vehicle by a human driver and is irrelevant driving system.

In addition, if a vehicle safety inspection is required to operate an autonomous vehicle, the vehicle must automatically pass an inspection with respect to any equipment covered by the exemption of the bill or any equipment not subject to inspection under of Texas law.

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