Self-Driving Cars – Laws & Regulations

Because the autonomous vehicle industry is still evolving, the rules, laws, and liability principles regarding their use on public roads are also developing.

Some states do not have any laws at all when it comes to self-driving vehicles, others are considerably more cautious in their approach, even restricting testing of self-driving vehicles in neighborhoods without a permit. The federal government is also considering making the applicable laws uniform.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 20 states have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Washington D.C.

The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy

In order to accelerate the development and release of autonomous vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy in September 2016.

Divided into four sections, it highlights recommended vehicle performance guideline, model state policy, the NHTSA’s current regulations, and possible new regulations.

This federal policy also contains a set of best practices for the pre-deployment of autonomous vehicles. This includes recommendations for safe design and development, along with the proper process for testing autonomous vehicles before selling to consumers or operating them on public roads.

NHTSA is the federal agency that has the authority to recall any vehicles that do not meet the government standards.


California Department of Motor Vehicles gave the green light to Waymo.

The autonomous vehicle (AV) unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., has now been given the green light to begin testing of fully driverless vehicles on city streets, rural roads, and highways. More than 50 companies already are testing AVs on California’s public roads—but until now all have had human backup drivers. The new permit for Waymo signals a major turning point for public AV testing. Yet, as automakers and tech companies work to introduce AV use on a larger scale, they face scrutiny from lawmakers and the public. The shift to fully driverless vehicles raises new insurance questions and safety concerns.

Currently, human drivers—even when using their AV in “driverless” mode—are held primarily liable in the event of a crash. Who will be held responsible for a collision when there is no human driver?

Debate continues over these cars’ ability to maneuver safely.


No Vote for Self-Driving Car Bill

Congress did not act on a proposal to extend or expand a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. Instead, the tax credit for Tesla buyers fell to $3,750 on Jan. 1, and the credit is set to phase out entirely by the end of this year.

Despite the SELF DRIVE Act stalling in the Senate, self-driving vehicle technology marches on regardless of many unresolved concerns over AV testing, safety, and regulation.

Have Questions About Self-Driving Cars and Accidents? We Can Help.

At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, & Schoenberger, we recognize the liability rules for our highways are changing, and that responsibility for traffic-related issues is also changing. Our lawyers are diligent in staying current with the state and federal developments in the field of personal injury liability as it relates to autonomous cars, state and federal regulations, and traffic related legislation surrounding self-driving vehicles. In a fast developing areas such as autonomous automobile liability claims, you need lawyers who are staying current.

If you have been hurt in a self-driving car accident or have any other issue surrounding self-driving vehicles,  we can assist you. Contact us today at (415) 889-2919 for a free consultation and more info about an industry that is experiencing explosive growth.


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