A supporter of proposed regulations on driverless cars hopes they would attract testing of the vehicles to North Carolina.
House Bill 469 passed the N.C. House Tuesday in a 119-1 vote and goes to the Senate. If it becomes law, North Carolina would have formal rules for autonomous vehicles for the first time.
“We will not only be ahead but we may be able to attract some of the major components of the industry,” said Rep. Kelly Alexander, a Charlotte Democrat.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Phil Shepard of Jacksonville, said the bill is needed to prepare for the new technology expected to roll out soon.
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“They are up and coming, they’re going to be here before we know it, and we wanted to get started on it in advance,” Shepard said.
Under the bill, operators of a driverless car would not be required to have a driver’s license, but a vehicle registration would still be needed. The state’s seat belt requirement would not apply to the vehicle’s driving system, because it is not human.
The bill also addresses operator’s and owners’ responsibilities if a self-driving vehicle is involved in a crash. The operator would be responsible for stopping the vehicle and contacting law enforcement, and the vehicle owner would be responsible if that requirement isn’t met – but the owner wouldn’t run the risk of losing their driver’s license.
Shepard said he worked with vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders to develop the regulations, and they support the bill.
“It is a work in progress; as technology changes, I’m sure we’ll have to critique it, but this is a starting point,” he said.