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Autonomous vehicles bill nearing final passage in GA General Assembly

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Dave Williams
Staff Writer
Atlanta Business Chronicle

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Legislation setting a legal framework for autonomous vehicles to hit the highways in Georgia is just a step away from final passage.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a House substitute to Senate Bill 219 Friday 151-17. Since the measure's Senate supporters were at the table when the House substitute was crafted, senators simply need to agree to it to send that final version to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

The bill exempts self-driving vehicles from the licensing requirements that apply under state law to human drivers. However, in light of the still-developing technology involved in putting autonomous vehicles on public highways, the legislation also mandates more expensive insurance requirements for driverless vehicles than the minimum liability insurance premiums required of traditional autos.

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"This bill creates a legal structure that makes it very clear where legal responsibility lies if something goes wrong," said Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and one of the bill's co-sponsors.

The legislation met some resistance from lawmakers who don't trust driverless vehicle technology.

"Whenever you operate a machine, there has to be an operator to make sure it doesn't do what you don't want it to," said Rep. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead.

But Rep. Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, the bill's chief sponsor, said driverless cars are safer than vehicles driven by people increasingly distracted by cellphones.

"I'm convinced the technology has sufficient safeguards in place," he said. "This technology will help reduce traffic deaths in Georgia."

Belton also argued driverless vehicles would take jobs from 3.5 million Americans in the trucking industry.

But Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Georgia can't afford to be left behind by other states in taking advantage of the job-creating potential represented by autonomous vehicles.

"Florida, Michigan, California and so many other states have already passed laws allowing this technology," he said. "This is the future. The future is today."

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