Alabama lawmakers try to pave way for self-driving vehicles

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By  Lydia Nusbaum, WSFA

Alabama lawmakers held a committee meeting Monday talking about preparation for autonomous vehicles, commonly said as self-driving cars.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, is the chair of the Joint Legislative Committee to study self-driving vehicles and said he believes they are the future.

“And that’s why we felt like we needed to get ahead of this,” Whatley said.

Whatley said the goal of the committee is to look at all aspects of the self-driving cars and its impact on the economy.

Lawmakers brought up some unanswered questions including who would be liable in a crash, whether someone should drink alcohol in the car, and whether drivers licenses are important.

“Obviously with Alabama having a large presence of automobile manufacturing, this will be something that is very important to our economy,” said Whatley. “We need to look at all aspects of this.”

Lawmakers including Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, said these autonomous vehicles would increase safety on the roads.

“But these vehicles that we’re speaking of are so advanced and they will be able to respond to the car next to them, the car in front of them, the car behind them,” Allen said.

The University of Alabama and Auburn University are studying autonomous vehicles. Scott Martin is an Assistant Research Professor at Auburn University is researching this and believed it could become the norm in about 10 years.

“I think that autonomous technology has the potential to not only provide ease of use for an operator, but provide a safer environment,” Martin said.

Whatley said the committee will review any proposed pieces of legislation regarding self-driving vehicles.

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