Oklahoma Lawmakers Send Autonomous Vehicle Safety Bill to Governor

May 6, 2019

Oklahoma would establish rules regulating how to safely operate driverless vehicles navigating state highways under a bill passed by Legislature that has been sent to the governor’s office.

Autonomous vehicles are expected to bring in billions of dollars annually in future decades, according to a report by America’s Energy Security Leadership Council.

Rep. Ryan Martinez, the bill’s sponsor, said the Oklahoma Driving Automation System Uniformity Act could help position the state to become a national leader in testing and embracing the developing technology, The Journal Record reported.

An informal group was formed last year comprising lawmakers, transportation and public safety officials, local government leaders and industry professionals such as Uber and Tesla, Martinez added. The group concluded that Oklahoma’s central location within the U.S. and its many roadways are ideal for developing and experimenting with automated driving technologies.

Sen. Michael Bergstrom, another sponsor of the measure, agreed that it is crucial for the state to implement uniform regulations when it comes to automated driving systems, adding that it is also important to encourage development of the emerging industry.

“We don’t want to have a hodgepodge of rules from city to city and county to county regulating this technology,” Bergstrom said. “It makes sense for the state to oversee that with guidance from (the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety) and other experts. We also want to come out as a leader in this technology and bring that industry here.”

Tim Gatz, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Transportation, said the state could benefit from progressions in transportation technology, but he noted it’s critical to ensure that it is properly developed and safely deployed.

“It’s going to be very important for us to be involved in the conversation and also to engage municipalities and make sure they’re part of the conversation,” he said. “I don’t think Oklahoma would want to miss out on this as an opportunity and should make efforts to attract these companies.”

Automated driving systems would help Americans save around $800 billion per year in losses economically and to quality of life by preventing accidents that result from drunken, distracted or tired driving, the Energy Security Leadership Council’s report said.

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