Governor Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law on Monday allowing autonomous vehicles to operate in Nebraska.
The bill, which allows for the use of automated vehicles on state roads and highways as long as they comply with traffic and motor vehicle safety laws, received praise from a number of local and state officials, including Ricketts.
“It’s really well designed and I’m just amazed at where the potential for this can go,” he said.
Lincoln mayor Chris Beutler said he introduced the idea of piloting autonomous vehicles to State Sen. Anna Wishart prior to the start of the 2018 legislative session. According to Beutler, Wishart’s enthusiasm for the project was apparent from that moment.
“To say that Sen. Wishart was excited does not adequately describe her reaction,” he said. “She not only introduced LB 989 for us, but made it her priority for the session and skillfully guided it through the legislative session.”
Wishart, a freshman senator representing Lincoln, said the bill’s passing represents a shift in the focus of state lawmakers by spending more time focusing on innovation and planning for the future.
“LB 989 is an example of Nebraska saying we are not going to wait for other states to see what they do, we are going to be the leader in this innovative technology,” she said.
Wishart said the state is living up to the title of “Silicon Prairie” with the passing off the bill, and added her excitement towards working on future pieces of legislation surrounding innovation and economic development.
Ricketts echoed Wishart’s excitement, saying the implementation of autonomous vehicles is a step toward making roads safer.
“This bill sets the framework that allows autonomous vehicle manufacturers to be able to work with the state to be able to safely test their products here in the state,” he said.
Ricketts added that he wanted to strike a balance between regulation and safety when it comes to autonomous vehicles.
“This bill gives us the opportunity to learn about what we have to do to regulate autonomous vehicles and how much freedom they should have,” he said. “It puts us at the forefront of this industry.”
The use of autonomous vehicles has come under fire recently following the death of an Arizona woman after she was hit by a self-driving Uber in March. Shortly after, the occupant of a Tesla Model X died after colliding with a highway barrier in California while using the vehicles semiautonomous system.
Ricketts said that, by signing this bill into law, the state can safely test self-driving vehicles so the accidents that happened in Arizona and California don’t happen again.
“No system is going to be perfect, but we know that human drivers aren’t perfect either,” the governor said. “What we want is to be able to explore this technology because I do believe it has the potential to really drive down fatalities on the road by leveraging technology.”