Heled Testifies to State House Committee on Self-Driving Cars

Imagine a place where automated cars show up at your door to drive you to work, take you to the doctor or deliver your groceries and dry cleaning. That’s the metro Atlanta picture painted by Yaniv Heled, assistant professor with Georgia State University College of Law.

Heled was among the experts who testified before the Georgia House Committee for the Study of Autonomous Vehicle Technology. He is collaborating with people from Georgia Tech Research Institute on policy matters and that’s how he was selected to advise the House committee, led by Rep. Trey Kelley (J.D. ’14).

“All signs indicate that autonomous vehicles are coming,” Heled says in his testimony. “They will be part of our reality in the not-so-distant future.”

So far, California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and the District of Columbia have passed legislation specifically addressing autonomous vehicles. Another 20 states have proposed bills. However, no state appears to currently have legislation that would allow manufacturers to bring the technology to the market.

“If Georgia passes forward looking legislation, it could be the first state that allows autonomous vehicles,” Heled says. “So far, laws in other states are limited to the testing of vehicles and nothing else. Google wants to put fully automated cars on the street without steering wheels. They can’t do that in California, where they have a fleet of cars ready for testing. Uber wants to automate its entire fleet.”

Heled has researched the legal liabilities of autonomous vehicles. He suggested that legislators adopt a no fault rule, in which any car involved in an accident pays damages.

“It’s simple,” Heled says. “If your car is involved in an accident and causes damages, you need to pay.”

Legislation would enable Georgia to streamline the development and marketing processes from lab to market of these self-driving cars.

“All vehicles will likely have black boxes. In the future, these lower emissions smart cars will be communicating messages to one another and drive in platoons,” Heled says.

While it may be years before consumers actually get to use a driverless car, it raises interesting ideas for smog and traffic clogged metro Atlanta, which could see a significant boost if Google and Uber were to bring their cars here.

“This is cutting edge law and technology,” Heled says. “Driverless cars will change the way we do a lot of things in ways we can only start imagining.”