The potential impacts of autonomous and connected vehicles on travel behavior and transportation system design have been the focus of much discussion and speculation. While it is still unclear what those impacts will be, the technology is advancing quickly, causing many states and transportation agencies to consider adaptations necessary to accommodate it.
Since we last wrote about driverless cars in December, several states have taken a detailed look at legislation to phase in operation of this new type of vehicle. These new laws focus on testing, safety, and operations. Conversations addressing the thorny issues around liability are only just beginning. To address these and other regulatory considerations during the legislative process, the Council of State Governments issued a report providing assistance in developing policies and legislation.
While driverless cars seem to be a technological reality thanks to innovative leaders at Google, questions still remain as to their implementation and practicality. Researchers at University of Michigan hope to answer these questions by launching a citywide network of shared driverless cars in Ann Arbor in less than eight years.
This spring, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a policy statement on automated vehicles, which offers guidance for states that are considering authorizing tests of driverless vehicles. Three states—California, Florida, and Nevada—now explicitly authorize self-driving cars to operate on public roads for testing purposes. Michigan is expected to become the fourth state by the end of the year. Although not explicitly authorized, driverless cars are not specifically prohibited anywhere in the nation and are assumed to be legal throughout the U.S.
New legislation in California, a large-scale test in Michigan, and an on-road demonstration in Barcelona, Spain, bring the era of connected and autonomous vehicles closer to reality. Auto makers and NHTSA are partnering to assure interoperability, and the federal government weighs requiring emerging technology on new cars.