Nevada Governor Signs Driverless Car Bill Into Law

According to the Nevada Legislature's website, AB 511 "revis[ing] certain provisions governing transportation" passed the Assembly (36-6) and the Senate (20-1) and was signed into law by the governor this week. Although I am aware of no law that prohibits driverless cars, this appears to be the first law officially to sanction the technology. Specifically, the law provides that the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles "shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada." The law charges the Nevada DMV with setting safety and performance standards and requires it to designate areas where driverless cars may be tested. (Note that this could take some serious time: Japan, for instance, has been promising standards for personal robots for years and has yet to release them.)

I believe a previous version of the bill had an exception to the ban on texting for passengers in cars that drove themselves. Otherwise, the law is substantially similar to the bill I discussed in April. So I have the same nits. Overall, however, this is great development. Autonomous driving has serious potential but its safety and savings need to be evidenced in a controlled environment. Nevada---former host of the DARPA Grand Challenge---is now the lead car in the caravan. PDF of the law is attached below. UPDATE: The texting ban exception was passed as a separate bill. It reads in relevant part: "For the purposes of this section, a person shall be deemed not to be operating a motor vehicle if the motor vehicle is driven autonomously through the use of artificial-intelligence software and the autonomous operation of the motor vehicle is authorized by law." Thanks Bryant!


Interesting, I don't like the idea of a driverless car. I would be extremely bored while going from Point A to Point B. I could agree with some sort of back-up system in case the driver falls asleep, though.

While I agree that it is great that Nevada has chosen to expressly authorize driverless cars, I think this bill was rushed through the Legislature. It could have addressed, or at least considered addressing, government surveillance enabled by the cars. Now, that issue is left to the courts, which tend to provide narrow opinions on issues pertaining to government surveillance and so will likely not provide much clarity.

Thanks, Yana. My guess is that the Nevada Department of Transportation will have some form of notice and comment period to involve stakeholders. I agree that privacy is an important consideration. (For an early, thorough look at the privacy issues in smart cars and roads, see the work of Dorothy Glancy at Santa Clara.)

Public safety should come first and foremost before anything else. In UK we have a total ban on the use of mobile use, however, there is always people who oppose these laws in the name of human rights etc.

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