Did you hear? Nevada is officially the first state in the union to allow self-driving cars. Well, sort of.
Self-driving cars present new challenges, and all sorts of interesting conundrums. For example, if the car is driving itself and gets in an accident, who’s at fault? If a car is improperly programmed, and starts speeding, is the driver liable? Nevada is in new legal territory here, and so far, they’re playing it pretty safe. Here are the new rules of the road.
#1) People Can’t Own Them, Only Corporations…
…and only corporations who are currently in the process of testing and refining self-driving vehicles. That’s pretty much Google and…uh…Google, so at this point, very few of the licenses are being handed out. So if you were expecting to wake up in Nevada tomorrow and summon your robot car to drive you home…sorry.
#2) Two People in the Car at All Times
The tests require two people in the car, at all times. So the car definitely isn’t allowed to dawdle down the road by itself, although that would probably make a highly entertaining Disney movie.
#3) One of Those Two People Has to Be Behind The Wheel
This one just makes a lot of sense: even Google agrees with it. One person needs to be behind the wheel, and has to be able to quickly take control in the presence of serious problems or computational malfunctions. In other words, no malfunctioning “kill cars” will be on the roads in the near future, which, really, we view as one less thing to worry about.
#4) If There’s a Legal Violation, Whomever Is Behind the Wheel Is Responsible
This goes back to rule number three: the person behind the wheel is responsible for spotting problems and nipping them in the bud. Fail to do so, and you’ve got the state of Nevada asking some pretty pointed questions.
The basic logic is that whoever would take control of the car in a dangerous situation the computer can’t resolve is the one who has to pay the ticket or report to court.
#5) Robot Cars Need The Same Amount of Auto Insurance as the Rest of Us
If you were hoping to maybe automate your car and save a little money, sorry: the rules are written so that self-driving cars need to have the same amount of insurance as a human car.
What the Future Holds
In the future, Nevada foresees owning a self-driving car as having the same licensing structure as getting a motorcycle or other specialty driving license: you’ll need to attend more training and be certified to own and operate the vehicle.
But it won’t be Nevada that decides whether or not self-driving cars can get on the road: that’s a decision that lies entirely in the hands of the federal government. As it stands, even those with the most to gain think it’s going to take two to three more generations of design and study before fully autonomous cars are ready for the government to decide how road-safe they are. But, hey, we’re getting ever closer.