The future of self-driving cars is upon us, and the North Carolina General Assembly is, well, paving the way.
With a bipartisan and near-unanimous vote during the short session, our state legislature passed House Bill 469 into law, regulating the operation of fully autonomous vehicles — if and when they become available in our state. The governor signed the legislation on July 21.
According to the new law, a “fully autonomous vehicle” is a motor vehicle equipped with an automated driving system that does not require an occupant to perform any portion of the operational control of the vehicle. The law does not require an operator to be a licensed driver and allows operators as young as 12-years old. Driverless vehicles must still be covered by a motor vehicle liability policy, however, and the vehicle must be registered like other cars. HB469 makes the registered owner of a self-driving vehicle responsible for any moving violations of that vehicle.
In the course of setting state policy, HB469 also preempts cities and counties in the state from enacting any local laws regulating driverless cars.
For the purposes of ongoing review, the new law establishes the “Fully Autonomous Vehicle Committee” within the state Department of Transportation. Consisting of 18 members, including representatives from the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, and the State Highway Patrol, the group will meet at least four times a year to review changes in technology and how the law needs to keep up.
Those federal laws may be coming soon in the form of the SELF DRIVE (“Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution”) Act, otherwise known as HR3388. The SELF DRIVE Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously.
The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group that includes Uber, Ford and Volvo, released a statement praising the House for passing the act. “Self-driving vehicles offer an opportunity to significantly increase safety, improve transportation access for underserved communities, and transform how people, goods and services get from point A to B.”
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the SELF DRIVE Act would preempt state and local laws regarding the design, construction, or performance of autonomous vehicles and their component parts. It would direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue rules relating to safety certifications and establish cybersecurity standards for autonomous vehicles, among standards.
States will still be responsible for vehicle registration, insurance, driver education, law enforcement and other local issues, The Hill reports. Manufacturers will be required to include cybersecurity and privacy protections in their vehicles.