More road tests of self-driving cars will soon be allowed in Washington state, because of an executive order Gov. Jay Inslee signed on Wednesday.
While most self-driving cars — also known as autonomous vehicles — are only partially automated right now, those being tested on Washington roads eventually might not have a person inside them at all, said Charles Knutson, Inslee’s senior policy adviser for transportation and economic development.
“What this executive order does is it sets the stage in Washington to make sure we maintain a leadership role in this technology,” Knutson said.
Inslee’s order directs the state Department of Licensing to partner with technology companies to allow pilot programs for self-driving cars starting Aug. 6.
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...Autonomous vehicle technology may reduce injuries and save countless lives.
Excerpt from Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order
Under the Democratic governor’s order, any company conducting a pilot program of an automated driving system must ensure the system is capable of “bringing the vehicle to a safe condition” if something fails.
Self-driving cars undergoing testing also must be properly insured and be capable of following the rules of the road, the order states.
“The idea is just to make sure those testing programs are safe ... to give the state a role to work with and partner with those technology companies as they’re doing their testing,” said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee.
Knutson said one reason Inslee wants Washington to take the lead on automated-vehicle technology is to prevent traffic accidents. According to the governor’s order, 94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error.
“...Autonomous vehicle technology may reduce injuries and save countless lives,” the order states.
Other benefits of self-driving cars include the potential to reduce traffic jams and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, Knutson said. Inslee’s executive order notes that driverless cars could help with “maximizing our ability to move people and goods quickly and safely throughout the state” while “serving as an important tool in our efforts to combat climate change.”
What this executive order does is it sets the stage in Washington to make sure we maintain a leadership role in this technology.
Charles Knutson, Gov. Jay Inslee’s senior policy adviser for transportation and economic development
“When coupled with electric vehicles, there are several studies out there that show this is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change in Washington state,” Knutson said.
The order also creates a work group to keep an eye on emerging trends in automated vehicles and ensure the state’s work complies with federal rules.
Already, some vehicles on the roads use some form of automated technology. In January, Inslee test drove a semi-autonomous Tesla X, an electric vehicle equipped with some autopilot capabilities.
Last year, Inslee worked to recruit Google to test its self-driving car program in Washington state. So far, the program — now known as Waymo — has tested automated vehicles in Kirkland without any incidents, the governor’s office said.