OLYMPIA – As new technology emerges; Washington has always been on the forefront of innovation. In 2017, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order authorizing a pilot program for the testing of autonomous vehicles. This program could now have some minimum requirements for operation thanks to HB 2676 which passed the House with bipartisan support on Wednesday, February 19.
Proposed by Rep. Shelley Kloba (D-Kirkland), HB 2676 sets down guidelines that companies testing autonomous vehicles in Washington must comply with. The new law would require companies testing autonomous vehicles to register with the Department of Licensing (DOL); carry an umbrella liability insurance policy that covers a minimum of $5 million per incident caused by an autonomous vehicle; inform local law enforcement agencies of testing that will occur in their jurisdiction; and report all incidents and traffic infractions involving an autonomous vehicle to DOL. The bill also requires DOL to make the information available to the public; provide the Legislature with an annual report of activities; and allows DOL to charge companies a small fee for their participation in this program.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to live in such interesting times where we are laying the groundwork for a future when cars will drive themselves,” said Rep. Kloba. “As with all new technologies there will be some trial and error. This bill ensures that companies who are testing autonomous vehicles on our public roads have the necessary insurance in case anything goes wrong. It also makes sure that the Legislature has all of the information it needs to craft appropriate policy as these exciting new vehicles evolve from an idea to reality.”
Any traffic incident or traffic infraction as well as any incident where the autonomous driving system is disengaged to avoid a traffic incident must be reported to DOL with in ten days. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.