December 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, 32 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation or taken executive action addressing driving automation. The laws in 10 states (Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin) simply authorize a study, define key terms or authorize funding. Ten states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Utah, Virginia and Washington) authorize testing, while 12 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, 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, 13 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, 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, 10 states (Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington) do not always require an operator to be licensed.

Vehicle automation is also being implemented in large trucks. So far, 19 states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin) have regulated platooning technology, which allows groups of individual trucks or buses to travel together with set distances between them at electronically coordinated speeds.

State What type of driving automation on public roads does the law/provision permit? Does the driving automation law/provision...
Require an operator to be licensed? Require an operator to be in the vehicle? Require liability insurance?
Arizona deployment yes depends on level of vehicle automation1 yes
California deployment not addressed no yes; $5,000,000
Colorado deployment no not addressed no
Connecticut testing yes yes yes; $5,000,000
District of Columbia deployment yes yes no
Florida deployment yes no no
Georgia deployment depends on level of vehicle automation2 depends on level of vehicle automation3 yes4
Hawaii testing not addressed not addressed not addressed
Illinois testing yes yes yes
Maine testing not addressed not addressed yes
Massachusetts testing no yes no
Michigan depends on vehicle5 yes no yes
Nebraska deployment depends on level of vehicle automation6 depends on level of vehicle automation7 yes
Nevada deployment depends on level of vehicle automation8 depends on level of vehicle automation9 yes10
New York testing yes yes yes; $5,000,000
North Carolina deployment depends on level of vehicle automation11 no yes
Ohio testing yes no yes
Pennsylvania depends on vehicle12 depends on vehicle13 depends on vehicle14 no
Tennessee deployment no no yes; $5,000,000
Texas deployment no no yes
Utah testing not addressed not addressed not addressed
Virginia testing not addressed not addressed no
Washington testing depends on whether operator present in vehicle no yes

1Arizona does not require the operator to be in a "fully autonomous vehicle" if the vehicle can achieve "a minimal risk condition" in the event of a failure and if the operator certifies that the "fully autonomous vehicle" can meet applicable laws.

2Georgia does not require a licensed operator for a "fully autonomous vehicle" when the "automated driving system" is engaged.

3Georgia does not require the operator to be in a "fully autonomous vehicle" when the "automated driving system" is engaged.

4The amount of liability insurance must be equivalent to 250 percent of what is required under existing insurance law until December 31, 2019. On and after January 1, 2020, the amout of liability insurance must be equivalent to the minimum required under existing insurance law.

5Michigan authorizes testing of any "automated motor vehicle" and deployment of "on-demand automated motor vehicle networks."

6Nebraska requires a licensed operator for "automated-driving-system-equipped vehicle" but does not require an operator for a "driverless-capable vehicle" if the vehicle can achieve "a minimal risk condition" in the event of a failure.

7Nebraska does not require the operator to be in a "driverless-capable vehicle" if the vehicle can achieve "a minimal risk condition" in the event of a failure.

8Nevada does not require a licensed operator for a "fully autonomous vehicle" if the vehicle can achieve "a minimal risk condition" in the event of a failure.

9Nevada does not require the operator to be in a "fully autonomous vehicle" if the vehicle can achieve "a minimal risk condition" in the event of a failure.

10A company or person seeking to test must have $5,000,000 of liability insurance; an "autonomous vehicle network company" must have $1,500,000.

11North Carolina does not require the operator to be licensed to operate a "fully autonomous vehicle" when the "automated driving system" is engaged.

12The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) voluntary guidance authorizes testing of "highly automated vehicles." Pennsylvania law authorizes deployment of "highly automated work zone vehicles," effective April 22, 2019.

13PennDOT voluntary guidance requires a licensed operator to test "highly automated vehicles," but Pennsylvania law does not address operator licensing for "highly automated work zone vehicles."

14PennDOT voluntary guidance requires an operator in the vehicle to test "highly automated vehicles," but Pennsylvania law does not require an operator in "highly automated work zone vehicles."