State Testing Requirements Needed for Driverless Cars: Group

By Stephanie Beasley

The final stages of testing for fully self-driving cars will take place over the next five years, and states need to establish regulations that will encourage that testing and also protect public safety, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The group released a report Feb. 2 advising state motor vehicle departments to require automakers to submit an application that identifies each test vehicle, its operator, a safety plan and details about where the car will be tested prior to testing fully or semi-autonomous vehicle on public roads. Although it appears driverless cars could be operated in all states without changes to any laws, states may want to set testing parameters to protect public safety, GHSA said.

“States may wish to establish requirements that document what testing has occurred and any crashes, injuries, or other incidents that occurred during testing,” according to the report.

Nine states and the District of Columbia already have enacted laws authorizing driverless car testing and operation under specified conditions. California, one of those states, is drafting additional regulations that would require a human driver in self-driving vehicles at all times.

States Should Be Deliberate

Auto industry groups have raised concerns about states creating a patchwork of driverless car regulations. Many automakers have said that states should defer to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when it comes to setting safety rules for automated car technology.

NHTSA has the authority to regulate autonomous vehicle software, while states have jurisdiction over licensing requirements.

NHTSA has said it does not believe a steering wheel would be necessary in cars equipped with artificial intelligence capable of operating in the same way a human would.

The agency released model state policy last year that sought to discourage states from establishing regulations related to how self-driving cars should perform. The Transportation Department alone should regulate the performance of the software and the vehicles, the document said.

The GHSA report, which was written by former senior NHTSA official James Hedlund, also urged states against rushing to put out laws and regulations before they are informed about the issues. Among other things, officials from state motor vehicle departments should meet regularly with organizations that are developing or testing within the state and also join state working groups or task forces focused on autonomous vehicles, according to the report.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at

For More Information

The full GHSA report is available here:

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