Ohio Governor Kasich Wants the State to Be ‘Wild, Wild West’ for Autonomous Testing

Kasich signed an executive order allowing nearly unrestricted testing of autonomous cars in Ohio.

byJustin Hughes| UPDATED May 11, 2018 5:07 PM
Ohio Governor Kasich Wants the State to Be ‘Wild, Wild West’ for Autonomous Testing

On Wednesday Ohio Governor John Kasich signed an executive order permitting autonomous car testing on any public road in the state, Bloomberg reports. Kasich said he wants to make Ohio a "wild, wild west" for autonomous car testing, removing any legal barriers that would currently restrict such testing.

Not only does this allow autonomous cars with a backup driver behind the wheel as in Arizona, but also cars with no driver on board at all. Most states, however, in the wake of a fatal crash in Arizona involving an autonomous Uber car, are holding back on new regulations that would allow more autonomy than test cars have now.

Manufacturers are also wary of unleashing their cars further at this time. None have applied for California permits to operate without human backup drivers on board, which became available on April 2. Manufacturers seem to be aware that the technology is not yet ready for that level of autonomy. Additionally, it may seem insensitive to press on with even further autonomy in the wake of the Uber fatality.

But none of this has stopped Kasich from opening the doors for any manufacturer who wants to test in Ohio. Kasich's parents were killed by drunk drivers, which is a large part of his motivation to get autonomous cars on Ohio's roads as soon as possible.

"You’ll always have to take risks," Kasich said Wednesday while announcing the order. "If you don’t take risks, you die." Ironically, Arizona taking risks with its own autonomous car testing rules was a factor in the Uber fatality. Uber's self-driving program in Arizona has since been suspended, both by the state government and by Uber itself.

It is unknown whether the 80-foot walking tarantula tank from the Will Smith movie Wild, Wild West is included in Kasich's executive order.