Self-driving Cars in Colorado: What You Need to Know
In 2017, Colorado state passed a law allowing autonomous vehicles to be tested on Colorado’s roads.
The law requires companies that are developing self-driving cars to check in with the state, letting them know they will begin testing and that their vehicles will be on the roads, but the law does not require actual permission from the state on a case by case basis.
So what does this mean for Colorado’s drivers? Is it safe to share the road with a self-driving vehicle during its testing stages?
According to the new law, not much has changed regarding obeying current traffic laws. Driverless cars that use sensors, GPS, and other camera technology to operate must also have the capability to comply with the state’s current laws of the road.
Autonomous vehicles must be able to utilize turn signals, and if there is a passenger in the car, they must wear their seatbelt).
Essentially, companies testing their autonomous vehicles are on the honor system: if their vehicle’s operating systems have the “capability” to comply with current laws, all they have to do is notify the Colorado Department of Transportation of their testing launch, and then they can begin.
There have been many opponents to the introduction of driverless cars on Colorado’s roads with concerns for safety, but proponents of the law advocate for the safety of this new technology, citing the skyrocketing rates of accidents that are caused by human error, such as drunk and distracted driving.
Proponents also note the technology’s opportunities for disabled drivers, as well as increasing safety for autonomous farming vehicles that work at night.
A company called EasyMile, a French company, moving its headquarters to Denver, has launched their shuttle, EZ-10, for testing in Denver. EZ-10 is currently being tested for use in Peña Station, Denver’s first “Smart City,” a technological testing ground for Panasonic. It is intended for use as a shuttle between 61st and nearby office buildings and bus stops.
Panasonic is also presently testing technology for a smart network for cars to be able to communicate with each other about traffic, roadblocks, and other real-time infrastructure updates.
But this isn’t the first driverless car testing attempt. Last October, Colorado allowed Uber’s autonomous tractor-trailer to drive Budweiser beer from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, which was the world’s first commercial shipment by a self-driving vehicle. The delivery was monitored by a driver in a separate compartment of the vehicle and was successful.
Though other states, such as California and Arizona are tightening regulations and standards due to the fatal accident involving an Uber self-driving car in Arizona in March, Colorado’s laws for testing and standards have remained the same.
The accident may lead to oversight from the federal government, which may then take driverless vehicle testing laws out of the hands of individual states, but that remains to be seen.
However, companies developing and testing autonomous vehicles rally behind statistics that highlight the accident likelihood due to human error, claiming that, for now, it is still safer to share the road with autonomous vehicles than it is to drive alongside cars that are operated by humans.
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