The Capitol Record

Lawmakers told to prepare for self-driving cars on the road

The future of driving in Washington state was the topic of a work session in the House Transportation committee on Wednesday. Self-driving cars aren’t expected on the highways anytime soon. But when they do arrive, legislators will need to craft new laws to regulate the automated vehicles, or AV’s, on state roads.

“The technologies for fully autonomous vehicles, that you can just tell where to go, are still more than a decade away,” said Jessica Lang, legal counsel for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But much of the technology already exists, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane detection and traffic jam assist.

The technology is coming at an increased pace, said Anthony Levandowski, an engineer with Google working on their self-driving car project, which has 7 driverless vehicles that have gone more than 140,000 miles.

“We think there’s a huge opportunity for safety improvements from new technology that can be added to the car,” Levandowski told the committee via Skype.

With the technology coming along at such a fast pace, experts say legislation needs to be prepared to regulate the cars. Three states — Nevada, California and Florida — have already passed laws regulating AV’s, Lang said.

“There are issues that need to be addressed early on in any discussion about autonomous vehicles,” said Mel Sorensen of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “Issues relating to accountability, responsibility, liability and a legal framework that would apply in the event of an accident.”

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