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How States Are Legislating Autonomous Vehicles (Interactive Map)

Throughout the country, states are setting their own pace when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Where some choose to move quickly and aggressively, others opt for lighter legislative touches.

Though still a far-off fantasy in the minds of many, 19 states have passed legislation relating to autonomous vehicles — many starting small by defining terms like "automated driving system," "dynamic driving task" or "autonomous vehicle." Additionally, governors from four states have issued executive orders creating councils and working groups of stakeholders and public officials dedicated to looking at how their states should proceed.

Where states like Florida have embraced fewer regulations, others, like California, have taken more tightly regulated approaches. Though these states have differed in their approaches, the future of transportation is in the midst of a revolution. 

The revolution, in short, means that the traditional rules no longer hold up when applied to the rapidly advancing technology. From the electrification of vehicles to the growth of transportation network companies and automated driving, traditional driving regulations must be updated to keep pace. Self-driving vehicles can already be spotted on test tracks across the country and on public streets in select cities, and several major companies including Ford, Toyota and BMW have all committed to driverless vehicles on American road within five years.

Automation not only has the potential to alter personal driving habits, but also opens the possibility for platooning, or using vehicle-to-vehicle communication to allow vehicles to travel close together, which reduces fuel burn and cuts wind resistance.

In September 2016, then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued a guidance for highly autonomous vehicles, drawing lines in the sand for what the federal government is responsible for and what the states are responsible for when it comes to the new technology.

And states play one part of this massive equation. Driving laws along with licensing and registration all fall under the state domain. Local governments are still tasked with dealing with the immediate effects of autonomous vehicle rollout, and the federal government is poised to rework federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Note: This map only looks at legislation on a statewide level. Individual cities have made tremendous progress with direct partnerships and testing of autonomous vehicles.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.