New York Prepares for Self-Driving Cars

by William Mattar | March 30th, 2017

As discussed in our last blog post, many states are taking action to prepare their roadways—and citizenry—for the introduction of autonomous cars.

Today’s post will take a close look at New York’s reaction, Assembly Bill A31, which was introduced and referred to the Committee on Transportation of January 7, 2015.

The Bill has a stated intent of “encourag[ing] and support[ing] the safe development, testing and operation of motor vehicles with autonomous technology upon the public highways of the state.”

In essence the Bill, if passed, would modify the Vehicle & Traffic Law and General Obligations Law to regulate the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state of New York.

This blog post will parse the proposed changes to the Vehicle & Traffic Law.

First, the Bill would add a new section—Section 379—mandating that all autonomous vehicles comply with federal standards and regulations applicable to all motor vehicles. In addition, autonomous vehicles must
(a) Have a means to engage and disengage autonomous technology . . . which is easily accessible to the operator . . .;
(b) Have a means, inside such vehicle, to indicate to the operator . . . when the autonomous vehicle is operating in autonomous mode;
(c) Have a means to alert the operator . . . if a technology failure affecting the ability of such vehicle to safely operate autonomously is detected . . . so as to direct the vehicle operator to resume control of the motor vehicle.

The Bill adds another provision, Section 507-a, which provides that any person who holds a Class D License may operate an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode upon a public highway.

Of course, a Class D license only requires the operator to be 18 years or older, or age 17 with driver education, meaning virtually all motorists would be eligible to operate an autonomous vehicle.

Interestingly, that section reads that “[a] person shall be deemed to be operating an autonomous vehicle operating in autonomous mode when such person causes such vehicle’s autonomous technology to engage, regardless of whether such person is physically present in the autonomous vehicle.”