Response to HB314 Veto

I am writing regarding the Governor’s veto of HB314. We are in an unusual situation with this, because the status quo is not an option that we have. We will set substantive policy one way or the other with our votes. HB314 has been referred to as a bill to “allow” testing of driverless cars in New Hampshire. This is not true. Currently, there is nothing in our statutes preventing them from being deployed right now, without being tested. This was confirmed by the Dept. of Safety in the Senate hearing on this bill. Further, they are not subject to normal traffic laws like obeying speed limits and traffic lights. Please see the language from our statutes below:

265:60 Basic Rule and Maximum Limits. –

  1. No person shall drive a vehicle on a way at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.

265:9 Obedience to Any Required Traffic Control Devices. –

  1. The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any traffic control device applicable thereto placed as provided by law, unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter.

These are just two examples among many, which combined with our absence of an insurance requirement, make New Hampshire a unique opportunity for companies to test without oversight, without liability requirements, and without traffic rules. You can understand why the lobbyists fought so hard to defeat any bill that we brought forward. They have a perfect opportunity here for testing or even deploying with no oversight or rules whatsoever, and we have no protections in place for public safety.

How does HB314 fix this? Our statutes all refer to a “driver” or “person”. Category 4 and lower vehicles have a human who can be considered a driver and is subject to our laws. Category 5 vehicles do not. Here is a summation of these categories from the National Highway traffic Safety Administration, whose definitions we adopt:

“Level 4          An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can itself perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment – essentially, do all the driving – in certain circumstances.  The human need not pay attention in those circumstances.

Level 5            An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances.  The human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving.”

(“Automated Vehicles For Safety”. NHTSA, 2017, https://www.nhtsa.gov/technology-innovation/automated-vehicles-safety. Accessed 28 Aug 2018.)

HB314 establishes a permitting process for Category 5 vehicles. It is our position that Category 4 and lower are subject to the motor vehicle code and the human operating is the driver, whether they have hands on the controls or not. This does not solve the problem of changing our statutory language to accommodate Category 5 vehicles. However, it does give the Department of Safety the ability to pull the permit for any found to be operating unsafely. This is a reasonable first step in dealing with this new situation and resolves our immediate problem.

The elements included in HB314 are a lightweight package which meet the criteria established in the model state policy from USDOT. You can find those beginning on page 22 at https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/13069a-ads2.0_090617_v9a_tag.pdf

The liability requirements, designation of a lead agency which includes law enforcement, establishment of a permitting process, law enforcement interaction plan, etc. all come from this document which was discussed and worked on by Transportation Chairs from around the country for two years before being adopted. The Senate added a commission to review developments and update the policy as it needs to evolve. Between the original House version (which passed on the Consent Calendar) and the Senate amendment (commission), we have the perfect starter package, and immediate controls for oversight and public safety.

I ask for your support in overturning the Governor’s veto. It has become public knowledge that we have no rules or prohibitions. We have already had at least one instance where a driverless vehicle came into our state, and our police were told that they could nothing about it. This is simply unacceptable, and we must act now.

 

 

 

 

 

Respectfully,

Rep. Steven Smith

Chairman, House Transportation Committee

CC: House and Senate Members

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About Rep. Steven Smith

Steven Smith is a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, serving his fourth term. Rep. Smith currently represents Acworth, Charlestown, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, and Washington. Rep. Smith is the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
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