CHICAGO – Outgoing Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order on Oct. 25 that allows the state to test self-driving cars.
The state now joins Arizona, California and Pennsylvania, which also allow testing of these vehicles.
Twenty-nine states have enacted some kind of legislation regarding cars that do not require a human driver to operate them. The order comes on the heels of a 2017 law prohibiting local measures banning self-driving cars in the state, marking the embrace of the new technology in Illinois.
Attorney Lew Bricker of SmithAmundsen in Chicago told the Cook County Record that "the order permits companies to begin testing autonomous vehicles in Illinois," but "it does not usurp or supersede the federal regulations."
Attorney Lew Bricker USLAW Network
In regards to who is authorized to use those cars, Bricker stated that the document "requires IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) to 'create a registration system with the state for entities wishing to conduct safe pilots or tests.'”
When it comes to which companies would be allowed to test, Bricker said "the companies need to register with IDOT," just as any user.
Despite permitting autonomous cars' testing, however, there are some limitations.
"After registration, the order provides a number of requirements, including proper licensure of the driver who sits behind the wheel, proper monitoring by trained employees, compliance with applicable federal rules and so on," Bricker said.
Bricker said some "other states are ahead of Illinois," mentioning that "no state simply allows autonomous vehicles to operate, though certain states permit more autonomous activities than others."
Bricker said California has permitted more than 1 million miles of "autonomous vehicle driving of some fashion" and that at least "11 states permit truck platooning with autonomous vehicles." Autonomous passenger shuttles have been reported in Michigan, Nevada and California.
Bricker also said ride-hailing companies are "proving autonomous passenger services in various markets around the U.S."
There are some uncertainties about the regulation the new governor and the assembly will put in place.
"We do not know the regulatory scheme that will be put in place. Further, Gov.-elect (J.B.) Pritzker was silent to the best I could determine on autonomous vehicles," Bricker said.
"Given the needs of the Illinois economy, the great educational institutions and technology companies in Illinois, and that the groundwork has been put in place, I would expect the state government to press this forward," he said.
Bricker said questions of liability remain a great unknown surrounding autonomous vehicles.
"Liability and risk schemes have been silent on both the Illinois state and federal levels," he said. "We simply don’t know how liability will play out."
Bricker said state governments and the industry will also still need to work out questions over other issues including "truck platooning, ride-share companies, incentives to companies and others."
Illinoisans may be seeing more of autonomous cars in the next decade.
"Autonomous vehicles are coming. When will they be the norm? I don’t know. Late in the 19th century I cannot imagine many people thought that planes would exist. Certainly, the speed in which technology changes our lives is evolving at an ever faster pace. From what I’ve read and heard from government officials and corporate leaders, we will see a number of autonomous cars in some fashion in the early 2020s," Bricker said.