Nevada Bill Would Provide Tentative Roadmap for Autonomous Vehicles

The reasons why we don’t yet have autonomous cars are as much legal as they are technological, and Nevada is taking a step towards making things easier


Right now, we have cars that that will automatically keep you in your lane while adjusting your speed so that you don’t run into anyone in front of you. You can go out and buy one. It’s not just that the technology exists to allow our cars to do our driving for us, at least on highways... The technology is in some consumer cars already.

So why aren’t cars driving us around yet? A big (possibly the biggest) issue is legal: there’s simply no precedent that’s been established for, and let’s be blunt, who gets to sue who when something goes wrong. And something will, at some point, inevitably go wrong, and when it does, what happens next could decide the how the next decade of autonomous vehicles plays out.

Needless to say, after the fact is probably the wrong time to get this kind of thing figured out, which is why it’s such a wonderful idea that Nevada is being proactive with a new bill. A.B. 511 will lay a framework for “authorizing... the operation of, and a driver’s license endorsement for operators of, autonomous vehicles.”

Here are the pieces from the bill that are most relevant:

1.  The Department shall by regulation establish a driver’s license endorsement for the operation of an autonomous vehicle on the highways of this State. The driver’s license endorsement described in this subsection must, in its restrictions or lack thereof, recognize the fact that a person is not required to actively drive an autonomous vehicle.


Section 8  of  this  bill  requires  the  Department  of  Motor Vehicles  to  adopt regulations authorizing the operation of  autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada. Section 8  defines an  “autonomous  vehicle”  to  mean  a  motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence,  sensors  and  global  positioning  system coordinates to drive itself without the  active intervention of a human operator.


Sec.  8.

1.  The Department shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.

2. The  regulations  required  to  be  adopted  by  subsection  1 must:
(a) Set forth requirements that an autonomous vehicle must meet before it may be operated on a highway within this State;
(b)  Set forth requirements for the insurance that is required to test or operate an autonomous vehicle on a highway within this State;
(c) Establish minimum safety standards for autonomous vehicles and their operation;
(d) Provide for the testing of autonomous vehicles;
(e) Restrict the testing of autonomous vehicles to specified geographic areas; and
(f)  Set  forth  such  other  requirements  as  the  Department determines to be necessary

Obviously, at this point it’s all very vague. All this bill is really saying is, “hey, someone should really go figure this out.” But someone really should go figure this out, which is why this is such an important first step.

[ Bill (*.PDF) ] via [ Stanford CIS ]

Robotics News

Biweekly newsletter on advances and news in robotics, automation, control systems, interviews with leading roboticists, and more.

About the Automaton blog

IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.