Texas Enacts Regulations for Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars were never illegal in Texas, but new laws should be a relief to the companies developing them.

byStephen Edelstein|
Self-Driving Tech photo

It's hard to pass laws for something you don't think will ever exist, but that's created a confusing situation for self-driving cars.

Take Texas: The Lone Star State just passed laws legalizing self-driving cars, but they were never really illegal in the first place. Companies like Waymo have been testing self-driving cars in Texas for some time, and the new laws just make that practice explicitly legal, which should help the lawyers at those companies sleep a little easier.

As in other states, Texas requires self-driving cars to follow certain rules. Companies must carry a specified amount of insurance, and must accept liability for any incidents. All self-driving cars must also have the capability to record video. However, unlike other states, the Texas laws don't include a clear requirement for a human operator to be onboard, as Engadget notes.

Developers of self-driving cars have pushed for some form of regulation in order to clarify the legal situation surrounding this technology. While Texas does assign liability to manufacturers, at least those manufacturers know for sure that their cars are allowed on the road.

Until recently, the only real movement on self-driving car regulations was at the state level. A handful of states have enacted their own self-driving car rules, in part to attract jobs from automakers and tech companies. But now the federal government is getting more serious about it. Legislation to regulate self-driving cars is being drafted in both the House and the Senate.

The House bill has already come under criticism for potentially barring individual states from writing their own rules, according to Reuters. That means there's a chance the Texas rules could soon be superseded—although, since federal laws take precedence over state laws, that's likely to be the case with any self-driving car legislation passed by local governments should Congress enact its own.