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Texas allows autonomous cars on road, Governor Abbott signs bill

AFP Relaxnews

Updated: June 20, 2017, 2:48 PM IST
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Texas allows autonomous cars on road, Governor Abbott signs bill
A line of Lexus SUVs equipped with self-driving sensors. Representative Image. (Image: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage)
When many people think about Texas and the vehicle preferences of its residents, thoughts will probably turn to pickup trucks the size of houses with V-8 engines to match. However, we may have to start readjusting those perceptions as the Lone Star State is now the latest place to go all-in with driverless vehicle technology. Although self-driving cars have been on the roads of Texas for a while now, there hasn't actually been any legislation that directly permits them. On the other hand, there also hasn't been any legislation forbidding them either.

All that has changed now though after Texas State governor Greg Abbott signed a bill explicitly allowing autonomous-drive cars on Texas roads, as long as they meet certain conditions. For a start, all self-driving cars have to obey the existing traffic laws and have to have suitable insurance, but they also have to record video and the manufacturer assumes liability as long as the technology stays unmodified. Most autonomous vehicles are already equipped with cameras that are intrinsic to the onboard systems making them self-driving, but at least this legislation establishes a baseline for this new type of vehicle on the road. However, some critics are suggesting the legislation isn't anywhere near comprehensive enough.

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For instance, there's no requirement that a human operator has to be in the vehicle at all, and the American Automobile Association (AAA) wants to see a higher level of insurance coverage required than for regular cars.

Texas is by no means the first place to allow self-driving vehicle to be tested, but this new move to legislate in favor of them is an important step. Autonomous drive cars are also being tested in North Carolina, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Central Florida and elsewhere in the US, while outside America places as diverse as the Netherlands, Shanghai, Tokyo and Helsinki are also getting in on the act.

The move by Texas is particularly important though, and that's because it could encourage more companies to set up shop there for testing driverless car technology. Texas is already something of a hotspot for the industry, especially in and around Austin, thanks to its warm climate. The state is extremely conducive to testing these vehicles as many are probably still some way from being able to cope with the added difficulties presented by snowy and icy roads.

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First Published: June 20, 2017, 2:48 PM IST
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