August 2018

Automation is the use of a machine or technology to perform a task or function that was previously carried out by a human. In driving, automation involves using radar, camera and other sensors to gather information about a vehicle's surroundings, which is then used by computer programs to perform parts or all of the driving task on a sustained basis. One example is adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set speed and in the presence of other traffic continually adjusts the vehicle's speed to maintain a set minimum following distance. But while full driving automation is not yet here, manufacturers are actively pursuing development, testing and deployment of driverless cars.

State and federal regulators have begun establishing regulatory frameworks that will govern how highly automated vehicles will operate on public roads. In 2011, Nevada became the first state to enact legislation specifically permitting research and testing of autonomous vehicles with limited and full self-driving capabilities on public roads. Today, 31 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation or taken executive action addressing driving automation. The laws in 11 states (Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin) simply authorize a study, define key terms or authorize funding. Nine states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington) authorize testing, while 11 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) and the District of Columbia authorize full deployment. Only the jurisdictions authorizing testing and deployment are included in the following table and map.

Laws allowing the operation of automated vehicles initially required a human operator to be present and capable of taking over in an emergency. However, 12 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Washington), now allow testing or deployment without a human operator in the vehicle, although some limit it to certain defined conditions. In addition, nine states (Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington) do not always require an operator to be licensed.

Click on a state for more detail.