Autonomous Vehicles: States Pave the Way

Technology is rapidly expanding our transit choices, and states are taking notice. To cover the action, we're taking to the roads and checking out what's in store so far this year for autonomous vehicles at the state level.

As indicated by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 33 states introduced legislation related to autonomous vehicles in 2017, and leaders are poised to continue this trend in 2018. In January, Ohio, Maine, Indiana, and Colorado took action to address the evolving industry of autonomous vehicles in various ways.

Ohio, Maine, Indiana, and Colorado Respond

Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order establishing "DriveOhio as the Statewide Center for Smart Mobility." While this may be the state's first official office dedicated specifically to autonomous vehicles, it follows other projects, including the U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor and the Ohio Turnpike, that demonstrate Ohio's ongoing engagement with this technology.

On the East Coast, an executive order from Maine Gov. Paul LePage earlier this year created the Maine Highly Automated Vehicles Advisory Committee as that state considers the need for policy focusing specifically on autonomous vehicle technology. Maine is not one of the 33 states that previously examined such legislation at the state level.

In Colorado, officials are contemplating including funding for an autonomous vehicle lane as part of a proposed package by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A bill is heading to the Indiana State Senate for consideration after passing unanimously in the House of Representatives. HB1314 defines what is required of an "automated vehicle" to be in operation on Indiana's highways. The legislation also sets up a "taskgroup" that will be responsible for approving testing requests.

The recent actions in these four states are examples of the approaches state governments are taking thus far, but states are engaging in other ways as tech companies actively choose locations to pilot their technology. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal recently welcomed Waymo, formerly a program of Google, to test self-driving cars in Metro Atlanta. Earlier, the company sent test cars to California, Texas, Washington, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona.

Public Acceptance of Autonomous Vehicles Grows

Despite fast-paced advancements in this sector of the automobile industry and the subsequent responses by state government, gauging the comfort level of the public regarding the technology remains an important factor.

In a poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos in late January, just 27 percent of participants agreed that they would be comfortable riding in a self-driving car.

However, the American Automobile Association (AAA) notes that the number of drivers comfortable with the idea is on the rise. AAA began conducting an annual survey in 2016 with the goal of better understanding the public perception of self-driving vehicles.

AAA's most recent results are similar to those of Reuters, with 63 percent of U.S. drivers reporting they are afraid to trust autonomous vehicles. The previous year, that number was 78 percent, suggesting that people are slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea. Experts say that for the technology to be fully beneficial, it must continue to be more widely accepted by U.S. drivers.

What Is Your State Doing?

If you're interested in legislative actions taken by your state this year to address autonomous vehicles, check out NCSL's database to keep informed on what's being introduced where.

Visit APA's Autonomous Vehicle resources to learn more about the intersection of autonomous vehicles and planning and how leaders at the state and federal levels previously addressed the issue. You'll find highlights from the Autonomous Vehicles Symposium — during which APA collaborated with key voices in the field — briefings, guides, and additional information.

Stay tuned for more from APA on navigating this revolutionary technology locally and nationally.

Top image: A car runs in self-driving mode as its "driver" reads a book. Photo by iStock/Getty Images Plus.

About the Author
Catherine Hinshaw is APA's state government affairs associate.

February 6, 2018

By Catherine Hinshaw