Ga. Lawmakers Consider Bills Regulating Self-Driving Cars | WABE 90.1 FM

Ga. Lawmakers Consider Bills Regulating Self-Driving Cars

Feb 13, 2017

There is a lot of fear around self-driving cars, but it's not just the public that is unfamiliar with these cars of the future.

Georgia lawmakers are trying to figure out how to regulate autonomous vehicles and what to regulate.

Minimal Regulations

At the State Capitol, more than 50 people gathered around Heather Maxfield. 

"We want to be able to test autonomous vehicles here in GA in controlled situations,” Maxfield said. “What we would not want to see is regulation that would hamper them from testing or utilizing the autonomous vehicles.”

Members of the Technology Association of Georgia gathered at the State Capitol to meet with state representative to discuss autonomous vehicles and other legislation affecting the tech industry.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Maxfield is vice president of governmental affairs with the Technology Association of Georgia and she was giving a pep talk to members of the group before they went upstairs to meet with their state representatives on TAG's High-Tech Day on Jan. 26.

She said municipalities like Peachtree City have already volunteered to have self-driving systems on their streets.

But there's still a long way to go.

Liability Concerns

State Sen. Bruce Thompson is chair of the Senate Science and Technology Committee. He has a software and insurance background. 

Thompson said he wants to welcome autonomous vehicles but has some reservations in situations where there’s no driver.

"In the event that we have an accident of some kind, where does the liability lie with that?” Thompson asked. “It's one thing to fix a vehicle. It's another when you're dealing with medical claims."

At a committee meeting last week, General Motor's executive director of public policy on emerging technologies, Harry Lightsey, was on hand to try to reassure senators GM is doing its best to make the cars safe to drive and free from cyberattacks, but they still have things to figure out.

Harry Lightsey, GM's executive director of public policy on emerging technologies, spoke at the Senate Science and Technology Committee’s hearing on self-driving cars on Thursday.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

"Insurance, liability questions are all big questions that frankly we don't know enough yet to solve," Lightsey said.  

General Motors

That's why he's pushing Georgia to allow for test sites so car manufacturers like GM can come up with answers.

"It's a big leap to think suddenly you have a computer driving a car and not a human being, so we want to make sure we do this as safely as possible,” Lightsey said. “If we can't get the public to know that these cars are safe and they can be trusted and reliable, then we failed."

Some states have already passed laws regarding autonomous vehicles, including Michigan, California and Arizona.

Senator Thompson said he hopes to add Georgia to that list.

"We want to bring autonomous vehicles here and be the state on the forefront and we're well equipped to do that,” Thompson said. 

Pending legislation in the Georgia General Assembly would define autonomous vehicles and allow for car manufacturers to operate self-driving cars in Georgia. 

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