Currently, there are no bans on allowing self-driving cars to use public roads for testing or driving. Rhode Island is the most recent state to start the discussion of implementing a new bill to allow self-driving cars to use public roads. Sen. Joshua Miller mentioned that he proposed the new bill in order to encourage technology companies and tech jobs to move to a tech-friendly state like Rhode Island. If Rhode Island passes the bill they will be the fifth state to implement a bill allowing self-driving cars on their roads, after California, Nevada, Florida, and Michigan. New York is in the process of debating a law as well.
Opposition To The Bill
The main opposers to the new bill are the automobile companies and other technology innovators such as Google. Their primary concern is that they do not see a need for a bill allowing them to test on their state’s roads because there is not currently a ban either. Rhode Island is essentially shooting itself in the foot if the State Senate passes the new legislation. The new bill substantially limits a company’s ability to research and test new technology by setting requirements. The bill requires the following:
- A driver has to be in the car to take over in case of a problem
- This also points liability at the driver if a law was broken
- The person in the vehicle must have a license as well
Who Loses Out
One of the biggest problems that companies like Google are having with the bill is that it limits who can use them this new technology. For instance one of the main benefits of a self-driving car is that a blind or a severely disabled person could directly benefit from not having to depend on a driver. The current regulations would make those two types of people still unable to take advantage of the technology.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that these autonomous systems could qualify as a “driver” as long as they comply with the same regulations as human-driven cars.