Two weeks after Google showcased its self-driving car to local officials in Austin, a Texas lawmaker has filed a bill attempting to regulate the use of the futuristic technology.
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, filed HB 2932 on Thursday to define “autonomous motor vehicle” and “autonomous technology” in the state’s transportation code. The bill would require that a licensed driver be held responsible for such a vehicle when it is in use, even if the car is operating without the driver inside it. It also directs the Texas Department of Transportation to set up rules for the use of such vehicles in the state, including minimum insurance requirements. Nevada approved similar laws last year, though that state requires a person in the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat of a self-driving car while it is in use.
Google demonstrated its self-driving car last month at the Texas Transportation Forum, a conference hosted by TxDOT. Company officials told The Texas Tribune they didn’t solicit permission or clearance from any state agencies before testing the car on public highways and streets in Texas because the state’s laws only refer to cars operated by drivers. The company drove the car in autopilot mode through parts of Texas to get it to the conference in Austin. Google employees then offered demonstrations of the car’s self-driving technology on I-35 to local and state officials.
See here for some background. I think Rep. Capriglione has the right approach here in not requiring someone to be in the car while it’s in operation. Letting truly driverless cars be on the streets is a requirement for enabling car-sharing and other innovative and potentially congestion-reducing uses for these vehicles. If nothing else, a nice thing about a driverless car is that you can basically valet park yourself anytime you want. Drop yourself off and let the car go find someplace to wait for you to call it back, like the Batmobile. But that only works if you don’t have to be in the car at the time. Under this bill, that’s a possibility.