Kasich embraces autonomous vehicle testing in the state with list of safety requirements

COLUMBUS -

When Ohio Governor John Kasich signed an executive order last week authorizing autonomous vehicle testing on any public road in the state, his exuberance in embracing the new technology led him to proclaim, “I wanted to become the wild, wild west on this.”

While the wild west was often known for a lack of order, there is plenty of it in his executive order which authorizes researchers to test on Ohio roadways as long as their vehicles meet certain safety requirements and are capable of complying with Ohio traffic regulations. 

The order also requests that they register their vehicles with Drive Ohio – the state’s new one-stop shop for mobility initiatives, by providing information on the vehicle and where they wish to test. Each car must have a designated operator who is an employee of the company performing the tests as well as a valid driver’s license. Designated operators will be required to monitor the vehicle at all times and report any accidents that occur.

DriveOhio was established early this year by Kasich following a meeting with auto industry executives in Detroit. It’s a one-stop shop where researchers and automakers can go to coordinate with state agencies about things like autonomous vehicle testing. 

The order also creates a voluntary Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program to assist local governments in working with automotive and technology companies to advance technologies in their communities.  Municipalities will have the opportunity to work with DriveOhio and create an inventory of testing locations that offer a variety of traffic and terrain scenarios.

What they will not be able to do though is attempt to legislate their way out of testing on their roads.

“We’re not going to permit,” Kasich said, “communities to start blocking this because then you create a hodgepodge this is unworkable.”

“Some people are going to be nervous, I mean would you want to put your kids in the car, would you want to put your spouse in the car? Well, you have to test this stuff and I think we have enough guardrails around this,” Kasich said of the order’s requirements that include as follows;

For companies to test autonomous vehicles on Ohio roadways, each company must first register with DriveOhio and provide DriveOhio with all the following general information:

  • The name and business address of the company intending to test an autonomous vehicle in Ohio.
  • Identification information about the vehicle(s) to be used in testing including the make(s), model(s), and license plate number(s).
  • The name(s) and contact information of any designated operator(s) who the company has authorized to monitor the autonomous vehicle from outside of the vehicle.
  • Proof of the company’s motor vehicle insurance or other financial responsibility to operate a motor vehicle in Ohio under Ohio law covering each vehicle and operator.
  • The municipalities or other areas of the State where the company plans to test an autonomous vehicle.
  • The conditions under which the autonomous vehicle can operate in fully autonomous mode, including any restrictions under which the autonomous vehicle cannot operate.
  • The vehicles being tested have been certified to be in compliance with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, except to the extent exempted under applicable federal laws, and are capable of complying with all state traffic and safety laws.

In addition to registering with DriveOhio and providing all of the general information above, before beginning testing in Ohio of a level 4 or 5 autonomous vehicles, each company must provide DriveOhio with assurances, in a form acceptable to DriveOhio, that their autonomous vehicle(s) will:

  1. Achieve a minimal risk condition if a malfunction of the hardware and/or software occurs that renders the vehicle unable to perform the entire dynamic driving task.
  2. Have a designated operator.
  3. Be capable of complying with all Ohio motor vehicle laws.
  4. In the event of a violation of the law or regulations of the state, or in the event of a collision, cooperate with any appropriate law enforcement agency request for information about the incident, including sharing any non-proprietary data recorded and preserved by the vehicle or the company pertaining to the incident and maintaining a record of all other information until the conclusion of any investigation by law-enforcement.

Prior to testing, a company must provide DriveOhio with a summary report outlining its approach for the safe testing of their autonomous system and how the company intends to assure public safety.  Alternatively, a company may provide DriveOhio with a Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment as established by NHTSA in the Voluntary Guidance for Automated Driving Systems, Section I.

All autonomous vehicles tested in Ohio must have a designated operator.  Designated operators are not required to be inside the vehicle.  Designated operator(s) must:

  1. Be responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle while the vehicle is in use.
  2. Ensure that the vehicle reasonably complies with all traffic laws and regulations of the State.
  3. Actively monitor the vehicle at all times while the autonomous system is engaged.
  4. Have the ability to detect whether the vehicle is not operating safely and if so, then have the ability to bring the vehicle to a minimal risk condition.
  5. Have a valid driver’s license that is recognized by the State of Ohio.
  6. Be an employee, contractor, or agent of the company testing autonomous vehicles or is faculty, staff, or a student of a college or university and is actively involved in a partnership with that entity.
  7. Report to DriveOhio any collision originating from the operation of the autonomous vehicle while the autonomous technology is engaged on a public road.
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