Why Texas is taking action on self-driving vehicles

State Sen. Kelly Hancock

Transportation drives the Texas economy.

Whether it’s the commute to work, moving goods and services for business or vacation travel, getting around in our big state is important to the daily life of every Texan.

Self-driving vehicles, an important and fast-developing innovation in mobility, could dramatically change how we travel our roads and highways, and for the better.

It’s our job in the Legislature to make sure that Texas is on the forefront of establishing policy to foster – not inhibit – innovation in self-driving vehicles. With Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature on Senate Bill 2205, we now have the necessary laws in place to legalize autonomous vehicles (AVs) for testing and eventual deployment.

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This legislation struck the right balance in prioritizing public safety while also allowing AVs to operate in Texas. These vehicles are required to comply with all existing highway safety and traffic laws and must be equipped with on-board data recording systems.

For all the potential benefits in this breakthrough technology, the most important one is safety.

In 2016, there were more than 14,000 traffic accidents in Texas resulting in serious injuries. Statistically, someone is injured on a Texas road every other minute. More than 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error or behavior.

Self-driving cars have the potential to help make our roads much safer. For instance, automated driving systems will never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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That’s why we wrote legislation that enables responsible automakers, tech companies and others to bring this technology forward, which ultimately will help reduce crashes and may even save lives.

Beyond improved safety, self-driving vehicles hold great promise for benefiting business and our economy.

In fact, Arlington was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a proving ground for AVs, which could one day shuttle fans from parking lots to AT&T Stadium or Globe Life Park for the big game and transport students between classes on the University of Texas at Arlington campus.

Imagine the enhanced quality of life for disabled residents with easier access to mobility and, with that, job enablement. Imagine less traffic congestion and faster, more productive commutes and business travel.

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This innovation represents a crossroads of two major industries that already are pillars of the Texas economic miracle: auto-making and technology. These industries currently employ tens of thousands of Texans.

From the GM assembly plant here in Tarrant County to the so-called Silicon Hills in Austin, and elsewhere in our state, Texas has long embraced leading-edge manufacturing and technology.

With this new legislation on self-driving vehicles, we will continue to lead. We recognize that innovative technology provides valuable opportunities to keep moving Texas forward.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) represents District 9, which covers parts of Tarrant and Dallas counties, and is chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.