A bill to implement some recommendations made last year by the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) regarding autonomous vehicles (AV) cleared the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 11. HB 2676, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Kloba (D-1), would require companies testing driverless cars in Washington to report pertinent data regarding those tests to the state Department of Licensing (DOL) and to carry $5 million minimum in umbrella liability insurance.
The proposal follows a WSTC report last year which itself was based on the conclusions of a 34-member work group on how to balance public safety with market flexibility.
“I think it’s really important to balance the safety of the public with the opportunities for innovation,” Kloba said at the committee meeting.
“We want to be careful about the way in which we regulate and the burdens we put upon the industry, but we also want to make sure that our citizens are protected,” Chair Jake Fey (D-27) said.
The data AV testers would have to report to DOL includes their contact information, testing locations, proof of insurance and any traffic incidents involving an AV. That information would be publicly available through DOL, which would also be permitted to impose a fee on testers to pay for administrative costs.
However, Kloba said the requirements are “a minimum,” to allow the legislature to acquire more data and add further regulations if necessary. “I see this as a way to inform our decision, so that we can have just the right touch on how we guide this innovation.”
Supporters testifying on the bill at its Feb. 10 public hearing included Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Seattle Department of Transportation Mobility Solutions Manager Alex Pazuchanics and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Policy Director James McMahan.
Alliance for Automotive Innovation Program Coordinator Ryan Spiller advised the committee at the public hearing to ensure the rules mesh well with that of other states “so we don’t have a hodgepodge of different regulations.”
However, some legislators urged caution regarding the technology’s capabilities. Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-20) told colleagues prior to the Feb. 11 vote that more public safety measures are required.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say: ‘well they’re going to be great, because they’re going to take the human factor out of driving,’” he said. “Well if I’m not mistaken humans actually are the ones designing them, so you never totally take the human factor out. I’ve been sitting on my couch at home and my computer has crashed. I got extremely annoyed and my computer almost got hurt, but no one ever did. I’m concerned that when we’re relying on computer technology out on the roadways…when that technology is moving at 60 miles an hour so.”
SB 2676 has been referred to the Rules Committee for review.