The state of Texas has finally gone ahead and legalized the testing of self-driving vehicles there, with governor Greg Abbott signing a bill on the matter into law last week.
While the testing of self-driving vehicles has been tacitly allowed for a while now — as there were no laws banning it — there was also no explicit legalization of the practice either. The new law has cleared things up, and provided a legal framework for testing.
As would be expected, if you’re to take the assumed “no nonsense” stereotype of Texas at face value*, the rules are relatively simple: any self-driving vehicles being tested need to carry insurance, and obey existing traffic laws, like all other “drivers” do. (*I put the caveat above in because the continued refusal to allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers in the state, and the convoluted logic used to justify this, certainly comes across like “nonsense.”)
There actually are a few more requirements as well, but they are sensible — video of the testing needs to be recorded and the manufacturer/creator has to accept liability.
Autoblog provides more: “These aren’t exactly radical departures (many autonomous cars already have cameras, for one thing), but they establish a baseline. Critics are worried they’re too lenient, however. There’s no clear requirement that a human operator should be inside, and groups like AAA want a higher minimum insurance coverage than you’d see with conventional cars.
“Even so, the new law is important. While it’s not going to change minds at Waymo and other companies that were already inclined to test in Texas, it could encourage others to set up shop if they were previously skittish. And testing in Texas is particularly important — numerous tech giants have offices in the state (particularly in the Austin area), and its warm climate makes it a good testing ground for vehicles that might not be ready to handle snowy roads.”
This is no doubt the major reason for the new legislation — state lawmakers want to make sure that Texas remains a compelling choice for automotive tech development.