Tennessee lawmakers give green light to self-driving cars


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – State lawmakers spent a lot of time literally looking down the road.

They passed a comprehensive bill to get the state ready for self-driving cars or “autonomous vehicles” (AVs) on Tennessee roads. Seeing a car with no driver will take a while for most to get used to, but Representative William Lamberth, who sponsored the legislation, says he wants to put Tennessee in the legislative driver’s seat when it happens.

“We changed many of our laws that would allow autonomous vehicles to be deployed here on Tennessee highways,” said Lamberth. “At the same time we will require a lot from anyone who would own an autonomous vehicle or would manufacture one here.”

Automakers like GM are just one group testing AVs. However, before those vehicles are brought to Tennessee several questions needed to be answered, which Rep. Lamberth said added amendment after amendment to the legislation.

“You have to make sure that the bill still protects us from someone trying to rush technology out there on the road, so that’s why (the bill) is so thick,” said Lamberth. “We are ready for these cars now. We have got the statutory framework in place so that these companies can sell these vehicles in Tennessee the moment they are guaranteed safe.”

One of the big issues is liability. Lamberth said owners of a self-driving car would need a five-million dollar insurance policy.

If a child is left unbuckled in a driverless car, Lamberth said the parent of the child would get tickets. Also, if a car is fully autonomous, the driver wouldn’t need a driver’s license.

Lamberth said few other states have a bill as comprehensive about the future of the road as Tennessee.

Autonomous vehicle supporters say once the car is safe, things like drunk or distracted driving might be a thing of the past.

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