Abstract: Trail Blazing an Industry: The Potential Effects and Defects of Autonomous Vehicles and the Need for Legislation in Texas

Jordan FowlerVolume 50 Symposium Editor

Volume 49, Book 4

Driver-operated vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles both have one undeniably important trait in common: they are man-made.  Like the first trains, planes, and automobiles, AVs will surely have defects despite their shiny bells and whistles.

Several states have already passed legislation to regulate AVs. Manually-operated vehicles are heavily regulated in Texas, yet AVs are operating in the state without any laws governing operation and use. Instead of setting a minimum safety-standard for manufacturers and operators, the Texas Legislature has shut down six proposed bills, reasoning that they were “premature.” Even if the federal government eventually passes laws on AVs, it will still be within states’ rights to pass legislation, which is supported by the NHTSA’s recommendations thus far.

The Texas Legislature should pass legislation that statutorily defines AV technology; sets operation, licensing, insurance requirements; and addresses manufacturer duties and liabilities. The terms “Autonomous Vehicle” and “Autonomous Technology” need to be defined to provide courts, regulating agencies, and citizens with a starting point. Texas should require that AV testers be fully attentive and prove that the AV can pass a series of third party safety tests. AVs can provide endless benefits, but accidents in other states indicate the need for a safety standard. These proposed regulations will not hinder free enterprise. Instead, they will do what other states, at a minimum, have already done to encourage safe technological advancement.