Policy Research Shop Testimony: March 1st, 2017

PRS Students Testify on Autonomous Vehicles (AV) Legislation across the United States, as the New Hampshire House Transportation Committee Considers Adopting State AV Laws

On Wednesday, March 1, 2017, Neil Kamath '17, Sam Libby '17, and Paulomi Rao '19, students from The Class of 1964 Policy Research Shop of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, traveled to Concord to present their research findings to the New Hampshire House Transportation Committee, Chaired by Rep. Steven Smith. The students presented their policy brief, "Developing Autonomous Vehicle Policy in New Hampshire: Evaluating Policy Options across the United States," while discussing HB314, sponsored by Chairman Smith. The bill would establish the first set of regulations in New Hampshire that specifically address autonomous vehicles, or "self-driving cars." The students presented to the Committee and responded to a range of questions from the Committee members.

The policy brief and testimony focused on the dimensions on which the state might consider legislating, the types of language the Committee might adopt, and the opinions of experts from other states. The students examined all existing state legislation across the United States that addresses AVs, including both legislation that has been enacted and legislation that has been proposed but not enacted, totaling 66 bills. The students also contacted a range of experts from other states, including legislators, agency administrators, and other stakeholders, to solicit their views. The students broke the legislation down by category, focusing on seven dimensions of interest: vehicle definitions, registration requirements, operator requirements, driver's license requirements, insurance requirements, vehicle requirements, and liability regulations. The presentation described the categories on which there is either substantial or limited existing language, from which New Hampshire might borrow, what types of language have been enacted, and described the most common, least detailed, and most detailed types of language that other states have used to address each category. Many of the legislators' questions also raised issues about which the students had sought information from various experts in other states, and this information elaborated upon these other states' rationales for their own decisions, satisfaction with their own legislative language, and possible future revisions.

Given that autonomous vehicle technology is a principal area of development for many major technology and automotive firms, the U.S. Department of Transportation has recently issued guidelines about AVs, and because such vehicles are likely to begin appearing on roads in the near future, the Committee hopes to establish statutory language and regulatory frameworks that address autonomous vehicles in New Hampshire.

In addition to their work in the Rockefeller Center's Class of 1964 Policy Research Shop, Neil Kamath and Sam Libby also served as Rockefeller Center First-Year Fellows in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2014.