Green license plates for driverless cars

Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles has now issued the regulations for operating autonomous cars. In testing mode, they will carry red license plates and they must have at least two occupants. One of them must be able to assume control over the vehicle at all times. Once an autonomous car has been certified for fully autonomous operation, the car will display green license plates (Nevada’s  standard license plates are blue-gray).

Key issues of the regulation:

  • Whether physically present or not, the operator of an autonomous car shall be deemed the driver with respect to applicable traffic laws.
  • Operators of autonomous cars require a special Nevada driver’s license with a ‘G’ amendment. The amendment can be easily obtained for the holder of a Nevada drivers license and costs $5.
  • Autonomous cars may be sold in the state once they have passed testing and certification by the car manufacturer or an autonomous technology certification facility.
  • Autonomous technology certification facilities will be private entities and will be licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicle.

The regulation requires the following components within each autonomous car:

  • A black box which captures the last 30 seconds and retains its data for 3 years
  • A visual indicator when in autonomous mode inside the vehicle
  • An easily accessible, non detracting mode switch for engaging or disengaging autonomous mode
  • A failure routine which allows the car to transfer control back to the operator when it detects an error or which safely moves the car out of traffic and brings it to a stop should the operator not be able to assume immediate control.
  • It does not explicitly mention a mechanism to limit autonomous mode to the geographical area (e.g. Nevada highways) where autonomous mode is legal.

The regulation contains provision for the testing phase

  • Minimum 1 Mio U$ deposit or surety bond (maximum 3 Mio U$ for more than 10 vehicles)
  • Report any accident the autonomous car is involved with within 10 days to the Department.

This is a landmark regulation, setting up precedent on which other laws will be modeled. The regulation does not really solve the responsibility problem by deeming the operator the driver. It is clearly modeled on the assumption that the autonomous vehicle will be privately owned by Nevada residents, and does not consider the issue of car-sharing and operating autonomous vehicles as taxis (Would the taxi’s passenger be considered the operator and therefore need a Nevada driver’s license with ‘G’ amendment?).

By addressing the case where the operator is not present within the car, the regulation already looks ahead to the time where autonomous cars will not be limited to highways but may roam all public roads!



Comments are closed.