Autonomous Vehicles Clear Hurdle in Tennessee

With the passage of SB 1561 this morning, Tennessee can become the first state to modify the definition of a driver to include an intelligent control system.

Let that sink in for a second… 

The computer brains that make the Self Driving Car function autonomously, can legally control the vehicle.  In newer cars, the technology appears in the form of “driver assist” technology.   Software keeps you in your lane, manages distances between vehicles at cruise speeds, applies braking power in dire circumstances, parks your Tesla without you… it even wakes your Tesla from its slumber so that your car pulls up in front of you as if a valet is at the wheel (but nobody is there).

Such is an amazing foundation of intelligent control systems is already available.

The next step is for State Representative Mike Carter to bring a companion bill, HB 1564 to the floor.   A reconciliation process follows that vote, then assuming Governor Bill Haslam signs it, we find ways to leverage this event for Tennessee.

What’s special?  Senator Mark Green started the dialog with leading automotive industry players and kept the outcome simple.

Without writing complex regulations that apply to a technology clearly moving faster than society is prepared to admit and without giving one manufacturer an unfair advantage or creating new barriers to competition with safety rules and design constraints – Tennessee recognized and enabled auto industry creativity.  

Nashville and other cities in Tennessee should start developing strategies to create testing and development friendly incentive zones in their core.  Big cities and little cities each have something to offer in creating an environment where industry can test, deploy and develop self driving transportation.

Congratulations Senator Mark Green and soon, Representative Mike Carter.