BOISE - It may seem like a thing of the future, but self-driving cars are finally here. Car companies like Tesla, Volvo, and Cadillac, already designing their own autonomous vehicles.
It’s technology that has a lot of people asking questions, such as who’s liable in the case of a car crash, the driver or the car’s manufacturer? Does Idaho have any laws regarding these vehicles?
Currently, there are no laws regarding these kinds of vehicles in Idaho.
“There is no specific statute dealing with autonomous vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Sheldon Kelley with the Idaho State Police.
It’s one of the main reasons Gov. Butch Otter signed an executive order to create a task force to study self-driving cars and provide recommendations to the state.
The Autonomous and Connected Vehicle and Deployment Committee will look at many things regarding the vehicles, including testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, the removal of barriers to testing and deployment of the vehicles, as well as vehicle owner and operator responsibilities.
"That technology is out there and it is coming, so it is something we as a state need to take a look at,” said Kelley.
Kelley sits on the committee and says one of the main questions they hope to answer is who would be liable in an accident.
"There's nothing in place to exempt that driver. However, that is one of the questions we have to look at as a committee, that is one of the major concerns is who is responsible; and unfortunately, it will probably take a few court cases to have the legal system sort that out," said Kelley.
Kelley says regardless of who’s driving, whether the car is on autopilot or you’re at the wheel, the person sitting in the driver seat still must pay attention.
"Physical control of a motor vehicle is described as in the driver seat with the engine running, that makes you the driver and you're still subject to all the statute governing the rules of the road and how you operate that car,” said Kelley.
This means drinking and driving along with texting and driving, according to Idaho statute, is still breaking the law.
“The operator of the vehicle or the driver, whether autonomous or not, the driver is responsible for everything that that vehicle does. So, every statute on the books in Idaho, the driver still is required to comply with,” said Kelley.
AAA Idaho, also sits on the committee, and says autonomous vehicle technology is an “exciting development that holds the promise of significant safety benefits, but is still in its infancy.” The agency hopes to balance the economic benefits of the technology, as well as the safety requirements that should be in place during the research process.
"Overall our goal is to keep the motoring public safe and everything we do will be for that end,” said Kelley.
All the dealerships KTVB reached out to about the new technology respectfully declined to comment.
The governor hopes to have a report from the committee by November first.
Governor Otter's full executive order can be found here.