If you’ve been following the news, you may have noticed a recent spike in coverage of self-driving cars. Self driving cars represent not only a cultural and practical shift in our approach to transportation, but a unique legislative challenge at both the state and federal level. As the Council of State Governments reports,

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week issued long-awaited guidance delineating responsibilities of the federal and state governments when it comes to policies to pave the way for self-driving cars. This came as the Obama administration signaled that while strong safety oversight will be a hallmark of policies governing testing and deployment, the federal government will encourage innovation in the industry in recognition of the vehicles’ potential to save time, money and lives. Response to the guidance appeared to be largely positive and with the ink not even dry on the document, a number of states appeared poised to move quickly on new autonomous vehicle legislation in the days and months ahead.

The new guidance covers matters of design and vehicle safety testing, but some of the knotty questions regarding liability and driver responsibility (even who, or what, is considered a ‘driver’) are more difficult to answer.

NHTSA notes that it may be necessary for states to clarify the definition of “driver” in regulatory language, which could entail combing through multitudes of policies and state codes. The agency has already clarified for federal purposes that a car’s software can be considered a “driver.”

The insurance and liability issues could prove thorny for states as well. While some automakers have said they’ll take responsibility for any traffic crashes caused by their software, others have not.

cavWhat does this mean for Oregonians? It may be too early to say for certain, but agencies like ODOT are thinking about the implications of a broad movement to self driving technology. Other states have gone so far as to issue legislation and release executive orders relating to vehicle testing and licensing.

Interested in learning more about what state and federal governments are doing to prepare for more autonomous vehicles on the road? Click here.