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It’s official: Colorado passes first law to regulate driverless vehicles

Law allows autonomous vehicle testing as long as operators obey existing road rules

6-5-2017, Denver Post -- If you’re thinking about developing an autonomous vehicle in Colorado, go ahead. It’s now legal, as long as you obey all of the existing rules of the road, according to legislation that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Thursday.

“It’s hard to get the right balance between regulation and avoiding the red tape that sometimes stifles innovation,” said Hickenlooper, standing in front of a Chevrolet Bolt EV autonomous test vehicle that was trucked in from Michigan and is on its way for road tests in Arizona. “This is the right balance that allows Colorado to be a hotbed of innovation.”

It wasn’t meant to delve into the nitty-gritty of how autonomous vehicles should operate on the state’s roads. Rather, said sponsor state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, the new law focused on creating a process that allows for autonomous vehicles to be tested safely.

People in the cars, for example, must still fasten their seatbelts, Hill said.

“We were very clear in writing the law that we’re not changing any of those other laws. Obviously, seatbelts is one of them. Turning indicators, moving aside for emergency vehicles — all of those laws still have to be followed,” Hill said. “If you get into a car and don’t fasten your seatbelt, you’re the one liable. It’s not your car’s job to make sure you as the owner are doing your job.”

The law does require companies who plan to test driverless cars in Colorado to first check in with the state Department of Transportation and State Patrol.

Driverless cars — which use sensors, cameras, GPS and lasers to drive on their own — are being tested on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan. While most states have pending legislation or have considered rules, Colorado becomes the 17th to pass legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Governors in three other states have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

“In 2017, 33 states have considered autonomous-vehicle bills and seven states have enacted legislation,” said Amanda Essex, NCSL’s policy specialist on transportation. “State action ranges from establishing a committee to study the technology to developing regulations regarding the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The number of states considering legislation has increased each year since 2012, and at least 41 states have considered legislation addressing autonomous vehicles in the last five years.”

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