Proposed federal legislation could prevent states including New Mexico from regulating the safety of autonomous vehicles. These vehicles are sometimes referred to as “driverless.” If the proposed federal laws are enacted, they could limit the role of states to registration and licensing of driverless vehicles and oversight over safety inspections, traffic laws and crash investigations.
The proposed legislation is controversial for several reasons. On the one hand, building driverless vehicles in the United States could be good for domestic auto manufacturing. The technology could potentially also reduce collisions caused by errors of tired, distracted or drunk drivers. Some argue that a patchwork of state regulations could cause delays and complications. On the other hand, public safety and consumer protection are issues because there is potential for accidents. To address these important issues, the federal government would need to set enforceable standards and rules for these innovative forms of transportation, including for example, rules with respect to manufacturing. How long it would take to develop an effective federal regulatory system for driverless vehicles and how a system would work remains to be determined.