Minnesota Gov. Dayton orders autonomous vehicle testing, creates advisory board

An executive order puts the state in a growing group of those planning for new advances in transportation technology.

Minnesota has become the latest state to organize around the maturing autonomous vehicles industry.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order Wednesday to create a 15-member advisory council to study how the widespread adoption of autonomous and connected vehicles will affect the state. Minnesota joins 21 other states that have passed legislation and six others that have issued executive orders related to the governance of the emerging transportation technology. 

Dayton and members of his Cabinet have noted in recent weeks the potential economic and life-saving effects of autonomous vehicles.

“This new Advisory Council will help ensure that Minnesota is well-positioned to put this technology to work for the best interests of Minnesotans,” Dayton, a Democrat, said in a statement.


The new panel, whose membership is still partially undecided and is open for applications, is charged with advising the governor on traffic regulations, privacy concerns and other issues expected to arise as the technology becomes more common. Findings are due to the governor by Dec. 1.

Dayton is also calling on the Minnesota Department of Transportation to conduct new pilot tests of the technology. Those projects, which Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle has said will happen on private roads and limited public roads, extend the work already underway on testing autonomous shuttles during inclement weather.

Zelle told the Star Tribune newspaper that the testing so far has been educational.

“We certainly want to be one of those states where pilot programs and testing [are] happening,” Zelle said. “We think we offer something unique: the cold weather.”

Snow presents a specialized challenge to autonomous vehicles, which often rely on road markings to stay in their lanes.


Zelle estimated that autonomous shuttles could be commonplace in the state within five years.

Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman echoed that sentiment in a statement: “The mirror on your car says that ‘Objects are Closer than they Appear.’ I think that the same can be said about automated and connected vehicles.”

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