Working Group Preparing Recommendations For Autonomous Vehicles in Maryland

The Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Working Group met on May 16, 2016, to discuss its pending recommendations regarding law and infrastructure changes needed to accommodate self-driving and vehicles that continuously communicate with the Internet and traffic control systems.  The recommendations will encompass state and local infrastructure requirements, law enforcement policies, driver requirements and education, manufacturer requirements, and insurance requirements.

The Working Group also reviewed how other states have approached the issue. As part of this examination, the Working Group referenced a Governing article that discussed the approaches taken by California, Michigan, and Nevada. From the article:

For Michigan transportation officials, that requires a light regulatory touch. “The public sector has a role in this,” says Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). “What we’re trying to figure out is: How do we enable the technology to happen? It’s growing, it’s flourishing. How do we make sure the government is not in the way?” …

Michigan trailed California and Nevada in passing a law explicitly authorizing driverless vehicles. Michigan’s law didn’t get on the books until 2013. But as the center of the U.S. auto industry, the state also has a lot more experience than most others with experimental vehicles. Its new law made clear that people other than car manufacturers and universities could build and test these vehicles, as long as they had permission from the state. …

In 2012, California became the second state (after Nevada) to pass a law expressly allowing driverless cars on its roadways and regulating them. The law required the state DMV to issue two sets of rules: one for testing the cars and another for their general use by the public. Google and 10 other manufacturers have operated under the testing rules since late 2014, but Google, in particular, had hoped the long-stalled rules for the sale of the cars and for their use by the public would be relatively lenient.

That hasn’t been the case. The biggest flashpoint was the state’s requirement that cars used by the public must include steering wheels and pedals to allow occupants to take control of the vehicle. “Right now, we don’t have any data on autonomous vehicles being used without a driver. So we couldn’t possibly let the public use it without a driver,” says Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the California DMV. She says her agency plans to revisit its testing regulations soon. That could open the door for letting companies test cars without steering wheels, and, perhaps eventually, enabling them to gather enough data to convince regulators that the cars are safe. …

Compared with California’s draft rules, Nevada’s regulations for public use of self-driving vehicles are modest. They require that the vehicles follow the state’s traffic laws, store crash data in black boxes, alert occupants if the driving software fails, and come to a stop if the occupants don’t respond. Both the cars and their owners must get state approval.

The rules fit in with Nevada’s embrace of companies developing the more ambitious version of driverless technology. Gov. Brian Sandoval has ridden in both a Google driverless car and a prototype of a driverless truck built by Daimler. The governor also announced earlier this year that he is creating a center for autonomous vehicles in Nevada’s economic development agency.

The Working Group began meeting in December of 2015. Various state agencies are represented on the Working Group, including: MDOT, State Highway Administration, Motor Vehicle Administration, Department of Aging, Department of Disabilities, and State Police. County attendees included Howard County Deputy Director and Bureau Chief of Environmental Services Mark DeLuca and MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp. Deluca is also President of the County Engineers Association of Maryland (a MACo affiliate). Several other public safety and transportation-oriented entities were also present, including the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and AAA of Maryland.

Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S

Attendees also had the opportunity to ride in a Tesla Model S Sedan, which features an autopilot. The autopilot can be engaged on state and federal highways and will keep the car in its lane, recognize and follow speed limit signs, keep the car a specified number of car lengths from the vehicle in front of it, and change lanes if the driver activates the turn signal – all without driver control. The autopilot was demonstrated in real traffic on Route 100 near the BWI airport.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Working Group and Proposed Legislation

Autonomous vehicles will also be featured as a panel – “We There Yet? Autonomous Vehicles and the Future of Transportation” – at the MACo 2016 Summer Conference.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

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