Traffic Safety

CSG Midwest

Under a new law that took effect in August (HF 50), drivers in Minnesota can only use voice commands or single-touch activation on their phones to make calls and texts. Violators of the state’s “hands-free” statute will be ticketed $50, plus court fees; the penalty is $275 for repeat violations. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 other states, including Illinois in the Midwest, have hands-free bans in place. In each of these states, the use of a hand-held cell phone is a primary offense, meaning a police officer can cite a driver for it without any other traffic offense taking place.

The 2018 CSG National Conference in Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati in December featured a day-long policy academy on “The Intersection of Innovation and Infrastructure.” The event included policy discussions on autonomous and connected vehicles and truck platooning, state strategies for advancing the electric vehicle marketplace, ride-hailing and mobility innovations, how to enable the technology underpinning infrastructure innovation and the infrastructure investments and policy changes needed to drive innovation forward. In addition, Michael Stevens, chief innovation officer for the city of Columbus, Ohio, gave a keynote address about the city’s multi-million-dollar smart city initiative. Here’s a summary of what took place along with select comments from the day’s speakers. Below you’ll also find a variety of links to articles and reports that drive the conversation forward on many of these topics.

There have been a variety of activities in the world of autonomous vehicles this spring and summer. Here’s a roundup of the most recent federal, state and local policy actions, industry developments and research reports on the topic.

A March 18 fatal accident involving a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber in Arizona continued to produce reactions and ramifications across the autonomous vehicle policy community this week. Here are some of the latest updates on what policymakers are doing in the wake of the crash, what the crash tells us about autonomous vehicle technology and what it means for Uber and others.  

The death of a pedestrian in an Arizona incident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle this week is prompting a renewed examination of autonomous vehicle research and regulation. But it’s far from the only story that finds ride-hailing companies at the center these days. The impacts of services like Uber and Lyft on urban congestion, public transit, the taxi and parking industries, data sharing, access to health care services and trucking are also receiving scrutiny. All of these could have significant implications for policymakers in the years ahead.

If the first couple of months of 2018 are any indication, states are still anxious to make sure they get a piece of the action as the development and deployment of driverless cars proceed in the years ahead. I have updates on new executive orders in Arizona and Ohio, newly approved regulations in California, legislation under consideration in Indiana and Nebraska and a newly formed advisory council in Minnesota, among other state developments around the country. Also, updates on federal guidance on autonomous vehicles and the status of federal legislation. Plus, a plethora of links to articles on the latest industry and technology developments, shifting public opinion on autonomous vehicles and how cities can prepare for the autonomous future.

Issue: In 2017, 12 states approved self-driving vehicle-related legislation including measures to allow truck platooning, identify an agency to oversee testing and preempt local regulation. As the year wound down, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a streamlined version of policy guidance on automated driving systems and Congress was debating federal legislation that could preempt state authority in some areas. The growing use of drones in a variety of capacities also attracted the interest of states with 23 pieces of legislation enacted in 17 states. Federal drone legislation was also considered in conjunction with a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, but Congress ultimately approved just a six-month FAA extension that did not include drone language.

Nevada’s key partnerships at the intersection of transportation and technology, including on autonomous and electric vehicles, were in the spotlight last month as the CSG Transportation & Infrastructure Public Policy Committee convened during the CSG National Conference in Las Vegas. The meeting included remarks by committee vice chair Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon, a discussion of CSG’s 2017 focus on autonomous and connected vehicle policy and industry and policy updates from officials representing the Association of Global Automakers, Audi of America and Uber.

CSG Midwest
In 2016, drivers distracted by their phones or other devices caused 1,230 crashes on Iowa roads, nearly double the number from a decade ago, state statistics show. This year, the state’s lawmakers passed two bills to crack down on these motorists.

Issue: After years of saying they were still years away, autonomous vehicles and other technologies are here—or nearly here (at least to some degree). Uber has a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. Uber’s self-driving truck company, Otto, recently delivered a truck full of beer in Colorado. So now the question becomes how will state governments respond and how will they need to respond? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines last summer for states to consider in drafting autonomous vehicle legislation. But in trying to encourage the development of these technologies and perhaps reap an economic windfall, states will need to guard against doing more harm than good through legislation and regulation.

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