Washington has become the latest state to set rules for autonomous car testing and will allow the cars on public roads with or without a driver ready to take control.
The testing will be allowed under an executive order by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said
that roughly 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error and that autonomous vehicles could cut injuries and fatalities. The order mandates a state agency working group to oversee the program and sets up a process that could let companies start testing in about 60 days.
Since Nevada first allowed such testing in 2011, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing autonomous vehicle testing and three other states in addition to Washington have done so by executive order. The rules vary by state and automakers and tech companies have pushed for consistent nationwide rules, though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued voluntary guidelines that it plans to update.
Most states require a "safety driver" ready to take over, but Washington will not. The state will require companies to "self-certify" that they comply with rules set for cars with and without drivers, including financial responsibility, compliance with state traffic laws and the ability for non-driver cars to stop safely in the event of system failure.
The rules are limited and flexible by design. The governor spoke at his signing event about his order potentially attracting more companies and jobs to the state and spoke of a "relatively light touch" on the industry, according to the Seattle Times.