Principal Research Analyst
“Autonomous vehicle” is a term used to define a vehicle capable of operating without the intervention of a human driver and with the use of an automated driving system (ADS). A vehicle with an ADS is designed to perform the entire dynamic driving task without human intervention within the operating conditions for that specific ADS, known as its operational design domain.
The term “dynamic driving task” refers to operational and tactical functions required to operate a motor vehicle on a highway in traffic. If an ADS-equipped vehicle cannot perform the dynamic driving task properly, it must come to a state of minimal risk condition (a safe state to which an ADS brings a vehicle when a failure renders the system unable to perform the entire dynamic driving task).
Prior to SB 313, enacted in 2022, no statute authorized operation in Kansas for autonomous vehicles, and actions by and equipment for a human driver were required, implicitly prohibiting the use of a vehicle with an ADS for both individuals and businesses within Kansas.
Autonomous Vehicle Legislation in Kansas
SB 313, a bill concerning autonomous motor vehicles, authorizes use of an ADS-equipped vehicle in autonomous mode if it meets certain criteria as defined by law. The owner of a driverless-capable vehicle who intends to use an ADS must submit a law enforcement interaction plan to the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), and the vehicle must be registered and titled as driverless-capable.
It is also lawful for ADS-equipped vehicles to perform the dynamic driving task while a conventional human driver is present as long as the human driver can respond to requests to intervene, has a driver’s license and insurance, operates the vehicle according to manufacturer’s requirements, and can regain control of the vehicle when prompted.
The new law authorizes on-demand driverless-capable vehicle networks, which are transportation network companies (TNCs), to use driverless-capable vehicles for transporting people or goods. These include transportation for hire as well as public transportation. The provisions of the Transportation Network Company Services Act, as well as the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways, apply to driverless-capable vehicles to the extent practicable, but provisions that by their nature apply only to a human driver do not apply.
The bill also establishes an Autonomous Vehicle Advisory Committee to report activities and recommendations for use and regulation of ADS-equipped vehicles by July 1 of every year, starting in 2023 and ending in 2027. Its membership includes legislators, designees of certain organizations including trade and municipal organizations, and representatives of law enforcement and certain state agencies.
Legislation in Other States
All but six states (Alaska, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wyoming) and the District of Columbia have legislation or executive orders regarding autonomous vehicles. Of the states authorizing testing or full autonomous vehicle use, 9 authorize use of autonomous vehicle technology through either executive orders or rules and regulations authority, and 27 have statutory authorization; California, Hawaii, and Washington authorize such use through both statutory and executive authority.
Authorizations in six states permit only a study, define terms, or authorize funding relating to autonomous vehicles. Twenty-one states regulate what is known as truck platooning, in which a human truck driver leads two or more trucks that are linked via vehicle-to-vehicle communications and following the lead truck closely. These trailing vehicles must have a conventional driver in the truck to intervene as necessary and operate the vehicle where platooning is not authorized or prudent.
The map above identifies states that have legislation or executive action that authorizes use of autonomous vehicles. This authorization can vary widely, from testing to full deployment without a human driver. Autonomous vehicle testing sometimes involves trials at private lots or at universities, but the majority of tests are conducted on public roads and highways with conventional drivers who can intervene as the vehicle operates.
A more complete description of state laws and executive actions regulating autonomous vehicles is available in the KLRD memorandum “State Regulation of Autonomous Vehicles.” (http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/Transportation/memo_shelley_marshall_autonomous_vehicles.pdf)