Arizona has become an incubator for the nascent self-driving vehicle industry. Companies like General Motors, Waymo, Uber, and Intel have been testing self-driving cars on Arizona roadways in the Phoenix area since 2015. Governor Ducey instructed the state to eliminate regulations that would hamper a company’s ability to test such vehicles while outlining safety guidelines for their operation.
On March 1, 2018, Governor Ducey doubled down on his commitment to maintaining a friendly regulatory atmosphere for new technologies with an executive order. According to Governor Ducey, “As technology advances, our policies and priorities must adapt to remain competitive in today’s economy. This executive order embraces new technologies by creating an environment that supports autonomous vehicle innovation and maintains a focus on public safety.”
The order expressly allows the testing or operation of fully autonomous vehicles on Arizona roads so long as the operators of such vehicles make their activities known to proper authorities and are following existing laws. The order also instructs the Arizona Departments of Public Safety to “work with other relevant law enforcement agencies to develop protocols on how first responders shall interact with a fully autonomous vehicle in emergency and traffic enforcement situations,” according to a press release.
The impetus behind the order include the potential economic benefits of attracting tech companies to the state. Autonomous car testing in Arizona was the subject of national news articles in the New York Times, and other major outlets and some well-known tech companies have shown interest in moving their operations to Arizona. Recently, California has acted to make their regulatory climate for favorable for self-driving technologies. This move would help to ensure that Arizona remains competitive as other states move to attract these companies.
Many believe that self-driving vehicles could have a major impact on traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error or bad driving decisions can be implicated in 94% of crashes. Increased mobility, less parking space, and decreased traffic congestion are some of the potential benefits of moving to this type of technology. Autonomous cars could be the mass transit solution for sprawling metropolitan areas in the west because other forms of mass transit would be too costly because of the infrastructure projects it would take to make them a reality.