South Dakota prepares for driverless vehicles
Legislators grapple with if, when and how new technology should be regulated
PIERRE — Self-driving vehicles are here. And laws governing them are following.
But right now, South Dakota remains in a shrinking pool of states with code books silent on autonomous automobiles.
That could soon change, though, as lawmakers here grapple with if, when and how to regulate self-driving vehicles.
And the debate unfolding in the South Dakota Legislature this winter extends beyond state code books and into the realm of societal values. For many, autonomous vehicles are an inevitable step towards a more technologically advanced society, offering increased mobility and evolving methods of commercial delivery.
Conversely, there's apprehension about the potential job losses in driving-related sectors and a general unease about safety and ceding control to machines.
“I just think it might be a little early,” Rep. Tina Mulally said this week, while voicing concern about undermining human-led delivery jobs and the merits of proposed legislation that would recognize self-driving vehicles in state statute.
That measure, House Bill 1095, aims to regulate self-driving vehicles by creating a framework for safety and operational standards that would govern those types of cars, trucks and other automobiles. Right now, with nothing on the books, proponents of the measure say South Dakota is “the wild west” for self-driving cars, leaving law enforcement and state regulators with no choice but to treat them like any other vehicle.
“These vehicles right now, if they wanted to come to South Dakota and operate, we have no laws, no regulations, no restrictions on their ability to run on South Dakota roads,” said Rep. Roger Chase, who for the last two years has urged his colleagues in the state Capitol to address autonomous vehicles.
Chase’s latest run at legislation seeks to define autonomous vehicles, make clear that they are subject to the rules of the road, and to allow the state’s transportation commission to craft additional regulations for self-driving cars in the future as the need arises. And that’s likely to occur with more commercial industries anticipated to embrace driverless vehicles in the coming years.
The measure also prohibits local governments from enacting their own regulations, including taxes or fees, on autonomous vehicles.