Skip to content
CityLab
Perspective

How Not To Prepare For the Self-Driving Revolution

While some states are tightening regulations on autonomous vehicles, others are eagerly courting them. What’s the smartest approach?
Everyone wants a piece of this action.
Everyone wants a piece of this action. Eric Risberg/AP

As California adopts new regulations limiting the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs), leaders in other states seem eager to jump in and seize a piece of the AV action. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently claimed he would make the state the “capital of autonomous vehicles,” and the state’s transportation director, Aubrey Layme, invited any company to launch a pilot program on Virginia highways. “We have no rules that prohibit autonomous vehicles, no law,” he said. Meanwhile Arizona Governor Doug Ducey basked in the spotlight when Google’s Waymo picked up passengers in autonomous SUVs in April, just a few months after Uber’s Otto subsidiary sent an autonomous tractor trailer loaded with beer on a 120-mile journey from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.

So governors are excited about autonomous vehicles, and they are eager to compete with California. That’s understandable, even if they haven’t always offered thoughtful rules about AV deployment. But when compared to alternative approaches, racing to host headline-grabbing AV-testing milestones offers little promise to create jobs or improve lives.