It is unfortunately all too often the case that in their rush to regulate some new issue, well-meaning politicians end up doing more harm than good. This is certainly the case with automated or self-driving vehicles.
In their valiant quests to position themselves at the forefront of automated vehicle (AV) technology, a number of states are instead becoming the least tech-friendly by enacting a multitude of convoluted and counter-productive laws and regulations. Thankfully, Wisconsin is not one of them.
Governor Scott Walker has taken the Badger state on "the road best traveled" by signing an executive order that removes roadblocks to testing AV technology in the state. He's avoided the trap that too many elected officials have fallen into recently: quickly enacting AV legislation to score political points at the expense of progress. Instead, Governor Walker created a steering committee with world-class universities and private sector partners in close collaboration with state government to develop recommendations for autonomous and connected vehicle testing and deployment.
This is a much better approach than we are seeing elsewhere in the country: bills introduced in statehouses that are overly restrictive with respect to what AV technologies can be tested, how they can be tested, and who can test them. All too often, we are seeing examples of state agencies that do not have the capacity or knowledge in charge of regulating the safety, design, and performance of AVs. Common sense is too often a casualty in these debates.
While these states' leaders surely have public health and safety in mind, they are in reality building regulatory roadblocks that will only slow the emergence of this technology – technology that will benefit the elderly and disabled communities, help the environment, increase transportation efficiency, and above all, save lives.
The official state motto of Wisconsin is of course, "Forward." Now it joins states like Ohio, Virginia, and Arizona on the “road best traveled” – states where innovation is possible and life-saving technology can move forward. Governor Walker's executive order is a demonstration that with respect to AV technology, Wisconsin is "open for business."