While the technology may still be years off, New Jersey lawmakers are actively preparing for the day when autonomous vehicles begin to make their way onto the state’s roadways. For example, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th District, is moving forward with a bill that would create a task force to deal with the complexities surrounding self-driving cars. As outlined in Assembly Joint Resolution 164, the New Jersey Advanced Autonomous Vehicle Task Force would study autonomous vehicles and make recommendations on laws and regulations the state could adopt for the industry and New Jersey’s roads.
“What I want to see [is] the technology in New Jersey piloted,” Zwicker said, adding his push for a pilot program would allow the state to bring autonomous vehicles into a “controlled situation.”
The Legislature is also considering three bills that would outline more specific regulations for autonomous vehicles. Assembly Bill 4573 would require the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Motor Vehicle Commission to set up a one-year pilot program for self-driving cars. Those two agencies would enter into an agreement with autonomous-vehicle testers to take part in the pilot program. They would determine the geographic boundaries for where the vehicles can be tested, which ones will be tested and the hours during which the tests can be conducted.
Another measure, Assembly Bill 4541, would require the MVC to establish a driver’s license endorsement to operate a self-driving automobile on New Jersey roadways. Under A4541, the MVC would also have to enact regulations governing self-driving cars, according to the text of the legislation. Those regulations can include conditions that the vehicle has to meet before it would be allowed on the roads in New Jersey, such as insurance requirements, testing requirements and minimum safety standards.
A third proposal, Assembly Bill 1853, outlines the steps an automaker has to follow in order to be approved by the state to test its vehicles on any thoroughfares within New Jersey. A1853 calls for the automaker to show that its cars meet outlined safety standards and have been tested on private or out-of-state public roads, and that it will maintain a surety bond or self-insurance of $5 million.
Lawmakers and carmakers discussed the bills Oct. 22 at a joint Assembly hearing of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee and Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, but no action was taken. At the hearing, Eric Williams, senior regulatory counsel for Tesla Inc., warned against state action on the budding industry, saying it should opt instead for “smart legislation” he called “innovation before regulation.”
“We don’t want to prematurely stifle the technology,” Williams said. “All of those safety features we have on vehicles today, they enjoyed a rather unfettered period of innovation to develop organically in the fleet, and then once it was established that they were a critical safety feature, then the regulations came in.”
Craig Orlan, a senior state relations specialist at Honda North America Inc., told lawmakers automobile safety standards are better left to the federal government. The states, he suggested, should handle requirements such as infrastructure.
Read more here.