Autonomous vehicles may soon appear on Kentucky roadways
Published 12:37 pm Friday, April 7, 2023
The Center Square
A bill approved by both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly on the final day of its 2023 session last week could impact the future of transportation across the state.
House Bill 135 would establish a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles to operate across the state. The legislation sponsored by state Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, was revived in the session’s final two days after it did not clear the Senate Transportation Committee a couple of weeks earlier.
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Senate leaders reassigned the bill to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee when the General Assembly reconvened last Wednesday for the session’s final two days. The next day, it passed in the committee and then the Senate by a 21-16 vote.
The Senate’s version of the bill included an amendment that raised the liability insurance requirement from $1 million to $5 million. The House accepted that change in a 59-40 vote.
If Gov. Andy Beshear signs the bill, Kentucky would become the 21st state to allow AVs on roadways.
Under the bill, any business that wants to operate must establish the boundaries within which the vehicle will operate. The bill also includes language on how law enforcement can interact with them.
Bray told Senate A&R Committee members that the vehicles are safe and must abide by speed limits and all other traffic laws. He added that the technology is inevitably heading for the state, so it’s better if Kentucky takes a proactive stance on regulating them.
“Kentucky is the perfect testing ground,” he said. “We have hills. We have straight stretches. We have major travel corridors. We have urban environments, rural environments. We have four seasons. We are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this.”
Organized labor opposed the bill and thought they had scored a legislative victory after the Senate Transportation Committee’s decision and an attempt to insert the bill in another Senate measure proved unsuccessful.
Bill Londrigan, state federation president for the Kentucky AFL-CIO, chided the A&R Committee members for taking up a bill with no revenue component. He also said that the bill could threaten thousands of jobs in the state if it were to become law.
“How are you going to attract more workers to make up for the so-called truck driver shortage when the jobs prospective drivers would be entering are going to disappear in a few years?” Londrigan testified. “As we suggested previously, take a step back and reconsider this monumental change.”
Besides labor’s opposition, all 20 House Democrats and seven Senate Democrats voted against HB 135.