How Governments Can Clear the Road for Self-Driving Cars

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
April 8, 2016

So you've decided that your state should have self-driving cars. How, then, do you catch the attention of the Googles, Volvos and Navyas of the world that are developing and even deploying these vehicles?

Passing a typical "autonomous driving" law will get your state noticed -- but not necessarily in a good way. Although Google pushed for these laws in Nevada (the first) and California (the most prominent), the company has since resisted legislation in other states as too restrictive or onerous. Many forms of automated driving already may be legal, and states from Texas to Massachusetts have attracted research activities without a specific regime for self-driving cars.

Meanwhile, some new laws are not helping. Michigan has expressly prohibited widespread use of these vehicles on public roads. California has conditioned automated driving on rules enacted by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles -- rules that are now 15 months overdue with no clear end in sight. Nevada requires companies testing their automated vehicles in the state to register them in Nevada regardless of any other registration. They must change license plates at the border.


Fortunately, there are many steps that a state, or a local government for that matter, can take to encourage automated driving. A new paper of mine, "How Governments Can Promote Automated Driving," describes nearly 50 strategies.

Some of these strategies are, admittedly, kind of boring. Filling potholes and painting faded lane markings, for example, will increase the roadway miles on which lane-keeping systems can operate. Since automated driving uses many of the same technologies as advanced safety systems, requiring new buses, taxis and government-owned vehicles to have the latest safety systems will increase demand for and decrease the cost of these technologies and potentially save lives in the process.

Read the full piece at Governing