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Driverless cars: Setting rules of the road

May 21. 2018 9:35PM

The robot cars are coming.

The question was if New Hampshire lawmakers would be ready, or have to scramble to catch up.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, has been working for well over a year on a bill establishing a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicle operation and testing, House Bill 314.

That work resulted in unanimous committee support and a voice vote on the House floor.

But earlier this month, the Senate rejected the bill, replacing Smith’s framework with a study commission. The issue has been studied, and as Smith points out, New Hampshire currently has no rules on the operation of driverless vehicles.

A conference committee reached a compromise last week, agreeing to Smith’s bill and to the Senate study.

Driverless cars have been in several high-profile accidents recently, but none appear to have been caused by the automation malfunctioning. Vehicle automation could be a revolutionary technology, providing independence to the elderly and disabled, and transforming American cities. For once, the Legislature is getting ahead of the curve as a paradigm-shifting technology emerges.

The compromise on HB 314 puts rules in place, while keeping an eye on an evolving field.

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