Texas state lawmakers have filed three bills aimed at making the Lone Star State a haven for self-driving car technology.
While the bills would encourage the use of the technology in the state, they would also allow for government oversight. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Democrat, filed a bill that would create a pilot program to monitor and encourage autonomous vehicle testing in the state. The bill would require the state’s Department of Public Safety to create minimum safety requirements for unmanned self-driving car technology. Before operating an autonomous vehicle, companies would need to notify the department before entering a public roadway.
Under Ellis’ bill, drivers would also need to be present in the car to take control if something were to go wrong. Those drivers would also be required to get an “autonomous motor vehicle operation designation” on their driver’s licenses.
For Ellis, though, the bill and the embrace of autonomous vehicle technology is a way to set Texas apart and assert the state’s leadership in technology.
“It’s the kind of futuristic thinking you easily associate with California, New York,” Ellis said. “Texas ought to not be behind the curve. We ought to be ahead of the curve. I want to be part of helping put a blueprint in place in Texas that goes beyond my service in the Legislature.”
In the state House, Democratic Rep. Ryan Guillen and Republican Rep. Larry Gonzales also filed bills to allow the Department of Public Safety to explore using autonomous vehicles. While Ellis’ bill would simply allow the department to set up a system to regulate the testing of the vehicles, Guillen’s bill allows the state to use the technology for border security. Gonzales’ bill would allow the state’s Transportation Department to explore the use of the vehicles for construction and maintenance.