AASHTO Backs Preserving State/Local Authority on AVs

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials joined the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and the Governors Highway Safety Association in a joint statement urging Congress to preserve roadway authority in development of potential autonomous vehicle legislation.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

“We urge Congress to ensure that any legislation being considered that contemplates laws governing autonomous vehicles respects and maintains the role of state, territorial, and local governments to ensure that proper safety measures are in place on roadways operated and maintained by our respective governments,” the statement said.

[Editor’s note: AASHTO also addressed these topics in both an eight-page policy paper and during a knowledge session at its 2022 Annual Meeting in Orlando; one focused on the future of connected and autonomous vehicles or CAVs.]

“The regulation of motor vehicle safety – which includes the design, construction, and performance of a motor vehicle – is and should remain a federal obligation,” the groups said.

“However, state, territorial, and local governments are the primary authorities concerning operational safety, including regulating the operation of motor vehicles after such vehicles have been constructed, the operators of those motor vehicles, as well as establishing the rules of the road on how motor vehicles can be safely operated on public roadways,” the statement noted.

“It is critical that states and territories retain the unburdened authority to enforce federal and state traffic safety violations, to act decisively against imminent public safety hazards, and to respond to individual traffic incidents as well as the broader, rapidly changing traffic environment,” it continued.

[Editor’s note: In July, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report – entitled “Innovation Highway: Unlocking the Social and Economic Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles” – that quantifies the potential social and economic benefits of passenger AVs.]

The groups warned that any encroachment into those authorities “could inadvertently create cascading effects of unacceptable uncertainty” on state, territory, and local public safety laws and regulations.

“Given the magnitude of potential safety and mobility improvements, fostering the safe development and deployment of this innovative technology is important to all levels of government – federal, state, territory, and local,” the statement emphasized.

“Successful implementation of autonomous vehicle policy will require adhering to the appropriate balance between the respective state-local and federal responsibilities,” the groups said. “We look forward to working with Congress to develop policy that ensures states, territories, and localities maintain roadway safety for our residents.”

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