State Autonomous Vehicle Bills Put Technology Companies at Disadvantage

The states of Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Maryland have all discussed bills that restrict automated vehicle testing to motor vehicle manufacturers, which puts technology companies like Uber and Waymo at a disadvantage.

The state lawmakers introduced the bills to ensure the safety of self-driving cars. The laws would also require companies to have liability insurance, provide advanced notice of autonomous vehicle testing, adhere to the laws that oversee motor vehicle operation and traffic, and collect and report safety data.

A similar bill has passed in Michigan, but after receiving criticism about the restriction to car manufacturers only, the state expanded its language to include any company that’s developing self-driving systems. However, the other bills still include the exclusion.

For example, General Motors, the Detroit-based car company is allowed to experiment on its self-driving systems through a partnership with Lyft. However, Uber and Waymo, the company started by Google’s self-driving program could not test its systems because they do not build cars.

“Policymakers are right to consider safety requirements, as putting unsafe autonomous technology on roads will slow public acceptance of the technology,” Joshua New, policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, said in a blog post. “But the best way to improve safety in autonomous vehicles is through more rapid innovation, and this will necessitate that technology companies, not just existing automakers, be permitted to test self-driving vehicles.”

The states have discussed autonomous vehicle testing regulations to prevent potentially naïve companies from trying to profit off of the popularity of self-driving systems without having any real experience or interest in safety. New said that preventing technology companies from testing their autonomous systems is an unnecessary step. For example, Mobileye would be prevented from testing its collision avoidance technology, which has been installed in 4,500 rideshare vehicles in New York City.

“As the popularity of ridesharing continues to grow in cities across the country, it is imperative that these vehicles take advantage of new technologies designed to enhance the safety of drivers and passengers,” said Moran David, director of business development at Mobileye.

Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C. have considered or passed legislation on autonomous vehicles.

“Many of these efforts are constructive approaches to developing new regulatory frameworks to support the growth of this valuable new technology and address its unique considerations, such as by examining if any existing laws unnecessarily restrict the deployment of automated vehicles and prohibiting local governments from banning vehicles with autonomous technology,” New said. “Policymakers should focus on similarly constructive approaches to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles and avoid policies that unnecessarily restricts competition.”

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