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Autonomous Vehicle Industry Advances in Arizona

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Uber, the ride-sharing giant, recently announced that it was moving its smart-car operation from California to Arizona, a state with fewer regulations for driverless cars.  The day before the announcement, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber’s driverless fleet off the Streets of San Francisco because Uber declined to apply for state-mandated permits.

Being lawyers, we wondered what statutes, regulations, and permit requirements existed in Arizona.

In August 2015, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order 2015-09 that sets forth four basic requirements for the development of driverless cars, such as accident insurance and having a licensed driver in the car.

Testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in such pilot programs shall abide by the following rules:

(a)          Vehicles may be operated only by an employee, contractor, or other person designated or otherwise authorized by the entity developing the self-driving technology.

(b)          Vehicles shall be monitored and an operator shall have the ability to direct the vehicle’s movement if assistance is required.

(c)           The individuals operating vehicles shall be licensed to operate a motor vehicle in the United States.

(d)          The vehicle owner shall submit proof of financial responsibility, in an amount and on a form established by the Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation.

These “driverless car rules” are in addition to the other laws that apply generally to vehicles on public roads. The Governor’s Office believes that, at least for now, more onerous regulations would increase costs, delay the implementation of important technology, and curtail competition.

Arizona also has an official “Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee” that works with ADOT, which has the authority to regulate these types of activities. Neither ADOT or the Committee have recommended additional regulations.

Arizona has become a hotbed for smart car technology, and is striving to stay a friendly environment. For example, Google Cars are already driving themselves around Phoenix and adjacent towns, Ford and General Motors are heavily invested in autonomous vehicles in other parts of the Valley, and ADOT reports other projects are underway.