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Autonomous Vehicle Bill Passes Tennessee Senate

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This month, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to legally identify and define self-driving vehicles. Senate bill 1561, the brain child of Senator Mark Green, passed the Senate unanimously, and experts predict it will pass the House easily.

Under the new law, Tennessee will recognize autonomous vehicles as any motorized vehicle capable of operating without direct human control or oversight. Currently the technology does not exist for a fully autonomous vehicle, though smart car technology is making human input less important for vehicle operation.

The law also includes language that creates a certification program for all new autonomous vehicles in the state. The program will ensure the Department of Public Safety has the ability to inspect and test new vehicles before they are allowed on the road.

Audi, the world's leading autonomous vehicle innovator, predicts the first autonomous vehicles are at least 2-3 years from the prototype stage, and will only be autonomous on highways. Fully autonomous vehicles are potentially a decade away from production.

Senator Green and other lawmakers supported the bill both as a way to promote job creation in the technology sector, and to reduce the frequency and severity of car accidents in the state. Tony Seaton, a car wreck lawyer in Johnson City, quickly acknowledged the positive impact the new law will have on public safety.

When asked about the law, Seaton commented, "Right now, almost 95% of car accidents are the direct result of human error. Whether the driver is distracted, slow to react, or makes the wrong decision in an accident situation, human error causes tremendous property damage and serious personal injuries every year."

At the federal level, support for autonomous vehicles continues to grow, and could lead to substantial investment in self-driving technology in the near future.

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