State Sen. Chris Cournoyer

State Sen. Chris Cournoyer

(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Senate has approved legislation that would govern how autonomous vehicles operate in the state.

By a 45-to-1 vote this week, the Senate approved Senate File 302 -- which establishes laws for autonomous vehicles and sets penalties for certain infractions. State Senator Chris Cournoyer -- a Republican from LeClaire -- says that while roads may not be packed yet with automatic-driving vehicles, that day could be coming soon.

"While the technology for these vehicles has not been fully developed, we want Iowa to be ready for this new technology when it comes," said Cournoyer. "Many people consider autonomous vehicles to be a significant part of the future of the automotive industry, and we want Iowa to be proactive in allowing innovation in our state."

The bill would make autonomous vehicles subject to all laws that other vehicles are bound by on roadways. Cournoyer says Iowa is at the forefront of developing and testing new technology for self-driving vehicles.

"We are quite fortunate here in Iowa with the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator that I have toured on two separate occasions," said Cournoyer. "It was selected as one of 10 automated vehicle proving grounds in the nation where testing and information is shared to advance the safe deployment of more highly automated vehicle technology. As the technology for autonomous vehicles continue to develop, it is necessary for states to address the potential impacts of these vehicles on the road."

In addition to all regular traffic laws applying to autonomous vehicles, Cournoyer says the bill requires liability insurance for owners and for the vehicles to have a minimal risk condition to avert potential accidents or performance issues. The bill additionally allows the Department of Transportation to adopt additional regulations governing autonomous vehicles. Cournoyer says the bill also includes a section addressing leaving the scene of an accident.

"As it relates to accidents, the language of the bill says the owner shall be imputed if the vehicle does not stay at the scene of an accident," said Cournoyer. "This amendment adds that the owner will not be imputed if the vehicle's failure to stay at the accident is found to be due to system error or malfunction. We did not want the owner to be held accountable for a manufacturing error."

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

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