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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

States are scrambling to figure out how to govern vehicles in an age of automated driving, when cars and drivers will have different levels of control over driving.

Why it matters: Autonomous vehicles will create new traffic risks, especially during the long transition period when there will be both AVs and driver-operated vehicles on the road.

  • The federal government has signaled that states should continue to be responsible for setting rules of the road, even when machines are doing the driving.
  • That comes with a host of thorny issues for states — from how to license automated drivers to how to rewrite outdated traffic laws.
"Basically it's been left to the free market — the states and the AV developers — to figure all this out."
— Jim Hedlund, consultant to the Governors Highway Safety Association

What's happening: Organizations like the Governors Highway Safety Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators are working with AV developers and others to help states tackle these issues.

  • Next week (May 8), GHSA and State Farm will convene a panel of experts to develop recommendations for how states can adapt their traffic safety programs for AVs.
  • In 2018, AAMVA published guidelines for states on vehicle registration; driver training, testing and licensing; traffic law enforcement, and emergency response.
  • A committee of the Uniform Law Commission is drafting an AV law that would address many of the same issues.
  • The Harvard Kennedy School is bringing regional experts together for a series of AV policy scrums, as Colleen Quinn writes below for Axios Expert Voices.

The big picture: About 20 states and the District of Columbia are preparing for fully automated vehicles by enacting legislation, creating task forces or conducting research, says GHSA.

  • But even those efforts don't begin to address the multitude of traffic safety issues that will occur when AVs begin to share the roads with human-driven vehicles, Hedlund says.
  • And most states are doing nothing, a 2018 GHSA study found.

The potential traffic issues:

  • AVs are programmed to obey speed limits, but prevailing traffic often moves faster.
  • AVs need to adapt to local driving customs like the "Pittsburgh left" (letting the first left-turning vehicle stopped at a traffic light turn ahead of oncoming traffic when the light turns green).
  • Level 4 AVs will stop operating if their narrowly defined operating rules no longer apply (think sudden snow squall). States need to decide whether only passengers with a valid driver's license can ride.
  • Can a Level 4 AV legally serve as a designated driver to carry passengers home from the bar? Would its occupants be subject to impaired driving laws?
  • States must also decide if distracted driving laws would apply to passengers in a Level 3 or 4 AV.

The bottom line: "States need to to step up to the plate and get involved, because AVs will happen and they will come to your state, if only for interstate truck platooning. So you'd better get ready for them," says Hedlund.

Go deeper: States are sewing a patchwork of AV regulations

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.