April 7, 2017 Radio Commentary

Driver-less Vehicles Coming to Georgia Roads

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, April 7, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Some day in the near future little Sam or Susie might not need a driver’s license to get to school, and they won’t need you, either. Autonomous vehicles have been authorized and can be legally registered in Georgia, when S.B. 219 becomes law on July 1st.

If you have an autonomous vehicle equipped with the right hardware and software, you or someone else may program the vehicle with the appropriate destination. Then, tell the kids to get in and buckle up. When the vehicle’s program is activated, they’re off to school in a driver-less, computer driven vehicle that weaves through traffic, makes the appropriate stops and turns, and arrives at the programmed destination to deposit the kids. Then, the empty-of-all-human-occupants vehicle parks or proceeds to its next programmed destination.

If no one in the vehicle has a driver’s license, that’s okay. They’ll be passengers, not drivers. Hardware and software of the “fully autonomous motor vehicle with the automated driving system engaged” is programmed to perform real-time steering, accelerating and slowing down, accident avoidance, and proper-response traffic maneuvers. Visualize it as a vehicle operating without anyone in the chauffeur’s seat, or the high-tech simile of a “head-less horseman.”Previous bills to legalize autonomous vehicles died in committee in recent years, but not, so this session. S.B. 219 that passed March 24th describes a fully autonomous vehicle as “a motor vehicle equipped with an automated driving system that [can perform] the dynamic driving task without a human driver within a limited or unlimited operational [setting] and will NOT AT ANY TIME request that a driver assume any portion of the … driving task when the automated driving system is operating within its operational [program].”

The design must include a “reasonably safe state” that stops the vehicle if the operating system fails. Liability coverage until December 31, 2019 would be 250 percent of that now required by law. Then, on January 1, 2020 the insurance coverage would change.

It’s unclear where the operator will be in case there’s trouble, but the vehicle must remain at the scene and contact law enforcement when it’s involved in an accident. Will a tire-tread imprint serve as a signature on a traffic ticket the policeman leaves on the windshield? Surely, I jest!

S.B. 219 specifies that “No rules or regulations relative to the operation of autonomous vehicles or automated driving systems shall be adopted which limit the authority to operate such vehicles or systems….” In other words, local governments cannot restrict driver-less vehicles after they become legal July 1st, with or without the governor’s signature … unless he vetoes it. Very interesting! For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent