Texas Okays Driverless Tests After Google Backlash
Texas has become the 18th state to pass a bill into law regarding autonomous vehicles, the third this month to do so.
The bill, signed by Governor Greg Abbott, is meant to explicitly allow autonomous vehicles to operate on Texas roads, without a human driver.
There was never a law that said that driverless vehicles couldn't test in Texas. In fact, Google has been testing them in Austin since 2015. However, Texas has attempted to make a concrete bill allowing it before in 2015, but it was opposed by Google and other manufacturers for reasons they chose not to disclose.
Not as much progress was being made in the state of Texas — when compared to states like California — in regards to autonomous technology. Manufacturers were hesitant to get their driverless cars on the road in the state without explicit permission; namely for testing their vehicles in real traffic. So when the state proposed the bill again, this time manufacturers were on board.
State Senator Kelly Hancock said at a hearing on this bill:
The lack of laws credited a need for clarity.
The law is titled Senate Bill 2205 and it requires driverless vehicles to abide by all of the traffic laws already in place and additionally have video recording devices built in. Any laws broken will make those who have had a hand in creating the vehicle responsible for any money owed. The law also has no specific restriction on there being no human inside. Currently, when manufacturers like GM test their self-driven cars on the road, there is always a human inside in case they need to take over driving.
This is reassuring namely to AAA Texas who wanted to see some sort of requirement in the law to have a human operator inside the vehicle, with a minimum insurance coverage of $1 million instead of the regular insurance coverage that all vehicles in Texas have.
Still, this was minimum opposition compared to the great push against the 2015 bill from Google. It seems that they've now changed their tune along with other manufacturers such as GM and Toyota who have also decided to back it.
The law also gives Texas the upper hand over other states in autonomous development because of their lax laws regarding it, holding it to the same standards as every other human-driven car. It promises to have more manufacturers looking to test their cars in the state. The US Department of Transportation has already sought out closed Texas sites to test autonomous vehicles.
The law will go into effect on September 1 with the state hoping that the inclusion of autonomous vehicles in the mainstream will help to make the road safer.