Autonomous Vehicle Regulations In PA | Gilman & Bedigian (2023)

With automated cars a seeming inevitability, many states and the federal government are trying to get ahead in the process of regulating how they will work. While the federal government is leading the way in providing guidance for how automated vehicles should work, states like Pennsylvania seem to be trying to ensure that self-driving car manufacturers feel comfortable testing their products in the area.

Regulations have struggled to predict how autonomous will work and what could go wrong with them, slowing the process of regulating them. Additionally, regulators have seemed reluctant to press for stringent requirements from autonomous vehicle creators, probably out of fear that it would deter them from making cars that are supposed to revolutionize transportation. Unfortunately, that reluctance can put people at risk because not enough steps are being taken to make sure companies do not shrug off the dangers they will be putting people into.

Federal Guidelines Through the NHTSA

As the major federal agencies dealing with road safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation are on the front lines of the push to regulate self-driving cars. Currently, much of this impetus has come in the form of voluntary guidelines rather than binding regulations, largely because of how hypothetical the problems still are.

But even those voluntary guidelines stress the competing goals the agencies face to keep everyone safe while still letting businesses run as freely as possible. In the most recent federal guidance on self-driving cars,Automated Driving Systems (ADS): A Vision for Safety 2.0, the agencies openly admit to those conflicting goals in the executive summary: “The Federal Government wants to ensure it does not impede progress with unnecessary or unintended barriers to innovation. Safety remains the number one priority…”

In spite of the second sentence, at this point it looks like the federal government’s number one priority is to let businesses run the show by not creating “unnecessary or unintended barriers to innovation.” That is why the guidelines are completely voluntary and only serve to point self-driving car makers to important and often obvious safety considerations, like:

  • Detecting potential hazards outside the car
  • Cybersecurity
  • Crashworthiness of the vehicle
  • Recording data about the vehicle’s progress
  • What the vehicle does, after a crash

A subsequent packet of voluntary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Transportation,Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0, focused on reminding states and cities that their regulations could be trumped by federal laws.

The actively hands-off approach so far is disconcerting, as businesses pursuing novel ways of doing things have a poor track record of considering the safety of the public. Without a requirement that companies comply with the guidance or an enforcement mechanism, the guidelines are largely irrelevant. Letting for-profit companies like Google’s Waymo, Uber, and traditional car companies like Toyota dictate the progress of autonomous vehicles is a great way to get innocent people hurt in ways that are both unnecessary and entirely preventable.

Still No Overarching Federal Law

A recent attempt by Congress to pass a federal law ended up failing, continuing to leave a vacuum where important safety regulations for self-driving cars could have been.

However, the demise of theAdvancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act, or the AV Start Act, was not all a bad thing for keeping self-driving cars safe. Many vehicle safety advocates had come out against the bill after noting that it did not require self-driving cars to meet all of the current safety standards for cars. As if to prove that the AV Start Act was a business-friendly bill that did not put due importance on safety concerns, many of the companies rushing to produce self-driving cars lamented that the law did not pass.

Until Congress steps forward and passes an overarching self-driving car law, it is up to the states and even to local cities to come up with the answers.

State Laws in Pennsylvania Governing Autonomous Vehicles

Pennsylvania has passed two laws related to autonomous vehicles. Neither one of them, though, makes much of a difference in the regulatory structure that will be needed to make sure self-driving cars are safe. Instead, both laws have been fundamental, but still small, preliminary steps towards settings those eventual regulations.

Senate Bill 1267, which waspassed in 2016, tweaked some definitions in the traffic code to better allow local governments to react to traffic hazards within their borders. More importantly for self-driving vehicles, though, SB 1267 opened the doors to use some of the $40 million the state of Pennsylvania had set aside for upgrading traffic lights to develop “intelligent transportation system applications, such as autonomous and connected vehicle-related technology.” While far from the most interesting aspects of self-driving cars, making sure that stop lights work for autonomous vehicles is a hugely important part of the process.

Additionally,House Bill 1958, whichpassed in 2018, defined some important terms in the field of automated driving, expressly allowed for testing self-driving cars in the state, and set up an advisory board to investigate the issue of self-driving cars and determine how best to regulate them.

The terms that HB 1958 defined were:

  • Highly Automated Work Zone Vehicle.An automated vehicle that is used in an active work zone for testing and driving self-driving cars. These “active work zones” for self-driving vehicles could be authorized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on a periodic basis to create a controlled environment to test self-driving vehicles.
  • Platoon.A group of up to three vehicles traveling at “electronically coordinated speeds.” These platoons could use highways in Pennsylvania and would be exempt from abiding by traffic rules that require safe following distances. Additionally, each vehicle in the platoon would have to be prominently marked as a “platoon vehicle,” and would have to have a human driver inside. People and companies could apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to run a platoon, implicitly nodding towards a future where self-driving cars “link” on their way to a destination.

Perhaps more importantly, HB 1958 created the Highly Automated Vehicle Advisory Committee within the Department of Transportation. This 21-person committee includes the secretaries of the following state agencies in Pennsylvania:

  • Department of Transportation
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Labor and Industry

As well as the following commissioners and politicians:

  • The Insurance Commissioner
  • The Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner
  • The CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
  • Both the chairperson and the minority chairperson of the Senate’s Transportation Committee
  • Both the chairperson and the minority chairperson of the House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee

Plus 11 people appointed by the governor who are supposed to represent public and private interests that could be affected by self-driving cars, like:

  • A car insurance representative
  • Someone from one of the companies developing self-driving cars
  • A representative for bicyclists, pedestrians, or motorcycles
  • Someone representing regular drivers or consumers

The Committee is required to meet at least three times per year, with the minutes of those meetings becoming a public record, and has the power to:

  • Develop technical guidance
  • Evaluate best practices
  • Review existing laws, regulations, and policies for self-driving vehicles
  • Research and evaluate automated driving technology “to ensure safe testing, deployment and continued innovation” in Pennsylvania

Every year, the Committee is required to provide an annual report of its progress and activities. That report is supposed to be posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website.

Regulations by the Department of Transportation

So far, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has issued little guidance on the issue of self-driving cars beyond establishing how they can be tested in the state. The Department requiresapplications before autonomous vehicle testing can be done, and has created atask forceto explore the potential problems raised by self-driving vehicles, but has gone little further.

Self-Driving Car Lawyers in Philadelphia at Gilman & Bedigian

Self-driving cars seem to be an inevitable part of the future in Philadelphia. However, and in spite of the continued insistence by lawmakers that they want to stay ahead of the curve on the issue, regulations that could keep automated vehicles safe are already lagging behind. If uncorrected, the problem could turn from a hypothetical issue into a very real one if self-driving cars begin to hit the streets in large numbers without the necessary rules and regulations in place.

Should this happen, the people who are going to suffer the most are innocent bystanders, pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. If they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and get hurt by a self-driving car that was made and maintained by a company that thought it permissible to cut corners and put the public at risk, the victim deserves compensation, and the company needs to be held accountable.

Thepersonal injury lawyersat the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian are ready to do just that. By representing you in court for the injuries you suffered at the hands of a self-driving car, we can ensure you get the compensation you need and deserve, and that the company takes the interests of the public seriously.Contact us online.


Are self-driving cars legal in Pennsylvania? ›

In November 2022, Pennsylvania passed new legislation that now explicitly allows either the testing or deployment of autonomous vehicles, without a human operator present. Pennsylvania law has previously prohibited vehicle operation on state roadways without a human driver behind the wheel inside the vehicle.

What are the laws for autonomous vehicles? ›

In late 2016, California passed a law allowing a self-driving vehicle with no operator, no brakes, and no steering wheel to operate on public roads under certain very specific conditions.

What is the difference between autonomous driving and self-driving? ›

A fully autonomous car would be self-aware and capable of making its own choices. For example, you say “drive me to work” but the car decides to take you to the beach instead. A fully automated car, however, would follow orders and then drive itself. The term self-driving is often used interchangeably with autonomous.

How many states allow autonomous driving? ›

Seven states—Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia—do not require a driver behind the wheel or for the driver to be licensed if they are, providing that vehicle is deemed to be SAE Level 4 or 5 capable.

What is the difference between a Level 1 autonomous vehicle and a Level 4 autonomous vehicle? ›

Level 1: Very light automation (cruise control, etc.) Level 2: Some automation but requires human attention at all times. Level 3: Can self-drive but require intervention in severe conditions. Level 4: Highly autonomous.

Is Tesla autopilot legal in PA? ›

States that allow the deployment of autonomous vehicles outside commercial use are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (effective from 07/01/23), Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Will self-driving cars be mandatory? ›

Driverless Cars: Optional by 2024, Mandatory by 2044 - IEEE Spectrum.

Who regulates autonomous vehicles? ›

In 2021, NHTSA issued a Standing General Order that requires manufacturers and operators of automated driving systems and SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems equipped vehicles to report crashes to the agency.

Is it illegal to let your Tesla drive itself? ›

A new law taking effect next year in California will effectively ban Tesla from using the confusing Full Self-Driving name of its current driver-assist feature. Senate Bill 1398 was sponsored by State Sen.

What legal issues are autonomous vehicles facing? ›

The industry is facing several technical as well as legal challenges, including radar interference, driving in extreme weather conditions, and the current lack of necessary laws and regulations. Most autonomous cars use three technologies to navigate: LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), cameras, and radar.

What are examples of autonomous driving car? ›

To qualify as fully autonomous, a vehicle must be able to navigate without human intervention to a predetermined destination over roads that have not been adapted for its use. Companies developing and/or testing autonomous cars include Audi, BMW, Ford, Google, General Motors, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Do autonomous cars have drivers? ›

A self-driving car is a vehicle that does not require a human driver to steer or pedal in order to operate. Though the technology exists, there are not currently any fully autonomous self-driving cars on the road today.

What US state has the strictest driving laws? ›

Strictest driving laws and car accidents by state

Alaska and Oregon take the No. 1 rank for the strictest driving laws, based on our analysis of drunk driving, seatbelt and speeding laws. If you're caught zooming above the speed limit in Alaska, you could be pinned with fines anywhere from $250 to $2,000.

Who has the best autonomous driving system? ›

Mobileye. Mobileye, a pioneer in ADAS and other life-saving technologies, is the market leader in self-driving enablement. Using its skillsets in active driver safety and machine vision, Mobileye has created a world-class autonomous vehicle platform.

Are autonomous cars legal in US? ›

The major update to NHTSA regulations allows companies to build and deploy autonomous vehicles without manual controls, as long as they meet other state and federal standards.

Is Tesla Level 2 or 3? ›

In a statement addressing the US recall, Tesla declared its technology is a 'Level Two' semi-autonomous driving system – not the more advanced 'Level Three' system which is already being developed and rolled out by rival car-makers.

What are the 5 levels of autonomous vehicles? ›

  • Level 0 (No Driving Automation)
  • Level 1 (Driver Assistance)
  • Level 2 (Partial Driving Automation)
  • Level 3 (Conditional Driving Automation)
  • Level 4 (High Driving Automation)
  • Level 5 (Full Driving Automation)
  • Where's my autonomous car?

What is level 1 2 3 4 5 autonomous driving? ›

Level 1: driver assistance. Level 2: partial driving automation. Level 3: conditional driving automation. Level 4: high driving automation.

Do I need an inspection of my Tesla in PA? ›

Does it still need to be inspected? YES! Although EV's are exempt from the Pennsylvania EMISSIONS Inspection procedure, they are still required to be subjected to a Pennsylvania SAFETY inspection procedure every year.

Do Teslas need emissions testing in PA? ›

No emission test is required on an electric vehicle. Questions may be directed to (800) 932-4600. The MV-431 and work order should note that the vehicle is electric and no emission test can be performed.

Is it legal to sleep in a Tesla on autopilot? ›

Even though Teslas can self-drive on the electric vehicle's autopilot function, it is illegal for drivers to be asleep or unconscious while behind the wheel.

What year will all cars be self-driving? ›

The autonomous vehicle (AV) industry will not develop a fully self-driving car until 2035, according to a recent prediction from research firm GlobalData. “We expect the timelines for deploying fully autonomous vehicles (Level 5) to be pushed back over the next few years,” the research firm wrote in a report.

What is level 4 autonomous driving? ›

Level 4 autonomous driving means that a vehicle is driven by an autonomous driving system from a specific area in a city center, to a passenger's intended destination.

How soon will self-driving cars be the norm? ›

Despite the hype that liberation day will dawn soon and cars will drive themselves, there's no realistic chance that full-on self-driving will be available before 2030, and then only in a tiny number of top-of-the-range sedans and SUVs, according to consultancy Accenture ACN +0.3% .

Who is responsible for a fully autonomous car crash? ›

With fully autonomous vehicles, the software and vehicle manufacturers are expected to be liable for any at-fault collisions (under existing automobile products liability laws), rather than the human occupants, the owner, or the owner's insurance company.

How many accidents are caused by self-driving cars? ›

Automated Vehicle Accident Stats

In 2022, Automakers reported approximately 400 crashes of vehicles with partially automated driver-assist systems to the NHTSA. 273 of these accidents involved Teslas (the most common vehicle with self-driving capability), 70% of which used the Autopilot beta at the time.

Who owns autonomous vehicles? ›

In executing the agreement, the Munich-based AID team was integrated into Argo AI to form the company's European engineering center. Between the partnerships, Argo raised over $3.6 billion. Argo's ownership was shared among its largest shareholders, Ford and Volkswagen, each of whom owned 42 percent of the company.

Can a Tesla drop you off and park itself? ›

Pull forward and stop approximately one car length ahead of the parking space (as you normally would when parallel parking or when backing into a perpendicular parking space). Release the steering wheel, shift Model 3 into Reverse, then touch Start Autopark on the touchscreen.

How long can a Tesla drive itself without a driver? ›

But a study released in October by Duke University autonomous vehicle experts Benjamin Bauchwitz and M.L. Cummings found that in almost one-third of automated driving tests, Tesla "vehicles drove autonomously for nearly 30 seconds on extreme curves that lacked even a single lane marking."

What is the biggest issue with self-driving cars? ›

Self-driving/autonomous cars have to detect road features in all conditions, regardless of weather or lighting. In the rain, it is promising but in the snow, it is not easy. Even humans get into more accidents during bad weather. But people can easily adjust their actions, depending on the situation.

What are the negative effects of autonomous driving? ›

The following 10 consequences are likely to happen if driverless cars are in our future.
  • Unemployment. ...
  • Decreased private ownership of cars. ...
  • Auto insurance prices. ...
  • Reduced air pollution. ...
  • Hacked vehicles. ...
  • Fewer parking spaces. ...
  • More accessibility. ...
  • Increase in drug and alcohol use.

What is one of the biggest challenges for autonomous vehicle? ›

Liability Insurance

One of the murkiest areas for self-driving vehicles is the issue of liability and insurance. How will insurance companies handle fender benders while a driver was reading and not paying attention to the road?

How will insurance be affected by self-driving cars? ›

Does a self-driving car result in lower insurance rates? Likely, no. In fact, the higher cost of vehicles with driver assistance features may result in more expensive insurance due to the potential for greater loss.

How often do self-driving cars malfunction? ›

In 2020, an AAA study found that vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experience various types of issues every eight miles in real-world driving conditions.

Why are self-driving cars bad for traffic? ›

According to the report, this would lead to more traffic by “increasing the mobility of the elderly and those who do not currently hold a driving licence”. At the same time, “the ability to work or relax while travelling in a self-driving car” means occupants will be “more amenable to sitting in traffic”.

What is the difference between Autopilot and autonomous car? ›

Autopilot systems require drivers to continue thinking about the road while driving, while autonomous systems are designed to do the thinking for the driver.

How many fully autonomous cars are on the road? ›

There are currently more than 30 million driverless cars in the world. This number is projected to grow exponentially as companies like Tesla pour money into the development of such vehicles.

What states allow fully autonomous vehicles? ›

Seven states—Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia—do not require a driver behind the wheel or for the driver to be licensed if they are, providing that vehicle is deemed to be SAE Level 4 or 5 capable.

What is level 5 autonomous driving? ›

Level 5 - Full Driving Automation

For Level 5, the autonomy of the vehicle is no longer subject to conditions. In contrast to Level 4, a Level 5 vehicle acts completely autonomously. The vehicle can drive anywhere in road traffic and under all conditions without human beings.

How do self-driving cars know the speed limit? ›

The car determines the current speed limit by either reading road signs with a camera, or by determining the speed limit using GPS and a stored database of roads.

Is Pennsylvania strict on speeding? ›

Speeding is costly, too.
Main Findings.
Overall Rank (1=Strictest)T - 29
Overall Score8.50
Reckless Penalties Rank45
Speeding Enforcement Rank11
50 more columns
Jul 5, 2018

What is the deadliest driving period in the US? ›

Data from the Insurance Information Institute (III) shows that summer is the most dangerous time of year for most American drivers and March is one of the safest months…

What is the hardest state to drive in? ›

Using weighted rankings, it assessed factors such as the cost of car ownership and maintenance, traffic, safety and accessibility to cars and upkeep. Hawaii ranks at No. 1 for the worst state to drive in. Washington follows at No.

Will Tesla solve autonomous driving? ›

While it's made strides and released an audacious prototype version of Full Self-Driving that owners are testing around the country, Tesla still hasn't delivered on its core promise of making cars that drive themselves. Some automated driving experts think it won't happen anytime soon.

Can you sleep in a self-driving car? ›

No cars available to the public are fully autonomous, so you cannot sleep in a self-driving car. Current cars with these types of features still require human interaction to avoid obstacles or make split-second decisions.

Who regulates autonomous vehicles in the US? ›

NHTSA and USDOT are committed to overseeing the safe testing, development and deployment of these systems – currently in limited, restricted and designated locations and conditions.

Are there any Level 3 autonomous cars in the US? ›

Mercedes is the first certified Level-3-autonomy car company in the US. That's conditional hands-free driving and only in Nevada for now. At CES earlier this January, Mercedes announced that it would become the first car company to achieve certification from the SAE for a Level 3 driver assist system.

Is it illegal to drive with one hand in PA? ›

Answer: There are no restrictions placed on a license for this situation, unless a physician notifies Driver and Vehicle Services of such.

Is PA hands free driving? ›

Drivers in Pennsylvania are permitted to talk on the phone, either through a handheld or a hands-free device. However, no one is allowed to text while driving. This is a primary law, which means that law enforcement officers may pull over and ticket someone texting while driving.

Can I drive my friends car in Pennsylvania? ›

If you don't have insurance and you drive your friend's car, your friend is on the hook for whatever damage you cause. But if the damage exceeds your friend's insurance coverage, the other driver(s) could sue you and your friend, who also could sue you to cover his or her share!

Can one handed people drive cars legally? ›

Answer: There are no restrictions placed on a license for this situation, unless a physician notifies Driver and Vehicle Services of such.

Is it illegal to drive in the left lane on a highway in PA? ›

Pennsylvania Law: Driving In Left Lane Prohibited Unless You Are: Overtaking and passing another vehicle. Traveling faster than traffic flow. Moving left to allow traffic to merge.

What is Pennsylvania vehicle code section 1519 C? ›

Section 1519(c) of the Vehicle Code, relating to a recall or suspension of motor vehicle operating privileges, provides in part: [DOT] shall recall the operating privilege of any person whose incompetency has been established under the provisions of this chapter.

Is it legal to sleep while your Tesla drives? ›

Even though Teslas can self-drive on the electric vehicle's autopilot function, it is illegal for drivers to be asleep or unconscious while behind the wheel.

Can you sue Tesla for full self-driving? ›

Tesla has won a lawsuit that tried to blame the company's Autopilot driver assist software for a 2019 crash, Reuters reports. The jurors in the case found that the software wasn't at fault in a crash where the car turned into a median on a city street while Autopilot was engaged.

Can you text at a red light in PA? ›

Pennsylvania's Texting-While-Driving Ban. The law prohibits as a primary offense any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.

Can you eat and drive in PA? ›

There is no law that specifically states that you cannot eat while driving in this state. However, eating while driving could cause you to swerve into another lane or lose focus and commit a moving violation, and you could be pulled over for that.

Is it illegal to drive with flip flops in PA? ›

Pennsylvania law does not prohibit driving barefoot. But you can still bear both civil and criminal liability for the damage caused by barefoot driving. You can avoid these costs by wearing shoes or sandals when you drive.

What is a Cinderella license in PA? ›

Junior Licence Rules

Also known as the PA Cinderella License Curfew. Junior license holders may not be on the roads between 11 pm and 5 am, except for work purposes or volunteering services (in which case drivers will need to carry proof of this in the form of documentation).

What happens if someone else is driving my car and gets in an accident in Pennsylvania? ›

If someone else is driving your car and another person causes the accident, the at-fault driver's insurance is usually responsible for covering costs. On the other hand, if the driver of your car is at fault, your car insurance will usually cover damages.

Does car insurance follow the car or the driver in PA? ›

Does insurance follow the car or the driver in Pennsylvania? Car insurance usually follows the car in Pennsylvania. The types of car insurance that follow the car in Pennsylvania are collision, comprehensive, and property damage liability.


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