The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday (March 12) took a final step to allow Walmart, J.B. Hunt and other Arkansas companies to “test drive” up to three autonomous or driverless vehicles on state roads and highways.
In a short session on the Senate floor, House Bill 1561 by Rep. Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, was easily approved by a vote of 27-5 with three members not participating. It will now be sent to the governor’s office, where Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to sign the law that will make Arkansas the 30th state to allow driverless vehicles on local roads.
Under HB 1561, the state Highway Commission would adopt rules that allow Arkansas companies to submit a plan to develop pilot programs to test self-driving or autonomous vehicles for the first time in the Natural State. The program would begin 60 days after the Highway Commission approves a state plan for Arkansas to comply with federal motor vehicle safety rules and meet all insurance requirements.
In introducing the bill, Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Mathew Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, told his fellow lawmakers the measure will open the door for Arkansas companies to operate driverless car systems designed to function at a “four or “five” automation level, the highest rating for a fully-automated driving system under the Society of Automobile Engineers.
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