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Texas Clears the Way For Autonomous Car Testing

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【Summary】The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, signed a bill that’s backed by automakers, allows them to test self-driving cars without a driver behind the wheel of the vehicle.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 22, 2017 10:15 AM PT
Texas Clears the Way For Autonomous Car Testing

Automakers and technology companies have various states to test their autonomous cars in. Wisconsin, for instance, recently created a path for self-driving car testing, allowing the state to become another testing ground for autonomous vehicles. Silicon Valley, Calif., Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Arizona allowed companies and auto manufacturers to test driverless vehicles from the beginning, making these locations the go-to spot for everyone. 

Texas Sets Things Straight

Now, Texas has entered the scene, allowing companies like Uber, Lyft, Google, and many more to test driverless vehicles in the state. As The Texas Tribune reports, Governor Greg Abbott signed a new bill last week, allowing cars to test autonomous cars on roads without a driver behind the wheel of the vehicle. 

Unlike other states, Texas didn't have any laws that banned self-driving cars from its roads. As the outlet points out, Google was testing its autonomous vehicle in Austin and Arlington, Texas back in 2015. And the U.S. Department of Transportation also chose various sites within the state to test driverless tech, as well, claims The Texas Tribune. 

The problem, though, as the outline claims, was with existing statues that didn't correctly outline whether companies could test driverless vehicles side-by-side with regular cars. "The lack of laws credited a need for clarity," said state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills at a hearing on the bill earlier this year. 

While the move to allow companies and automakers to test driverless cars without requiring them to have an engineer behind the seat is risky, the state of Texas is taking some precautions to ensure that the vehicles are safe. 

Safety First, Major Strides Later

As The Texas Tribune reports, Senate Bill 2205, which was backed by General Motors and Toyota, – who recently opened a connected-car hub in the state – will require autonomous vehicles to be insured like a regular vehicle and be equipped with video recording devices. The cars must also be capable of following traditional traffic laws. The bill also clearly states that companies and automakers will be on the hook for their driverless vehicles. 

If the vehicle gets into an accident or breaks a traffic law, manufacturers will be responsible for any of the damages the cars cause. The flip side to that, though, is whether another individual has modified the software driving the vehicle autonomously. 

Texas, according to The Texas Tribune, has become one of 18 states that have given manufacturers the green light to test self-driving vehicles. But only time will tell if the state will become a prime location for testing. The move to allow testing, though, does send a right message to automakers. "It sends all the right signals to GM or anybody else that's embracing the technology," said Harry Lightsey, GM's executive director of emerging technologies policy. 

With Texas' expansive highways and high speed limits, manufacturers will be able to cover an impressive amount of ground with its self-driving cars.

via: The Texas Tribune/Photos By: Brandon Formby/The Texas Tribune

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