Kentucky autonomous vehicle bill vetoed by Beshear

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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By Steve Bittenbender 

The Center Square

A bill that would have opened the door for autonomous vehicles to hit Kentucky streets has received a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear last week.

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Beshear announced he rejected House Bill 135. The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, created a regulatory framework to allow self-driving vehicles to operate on roadways.

It passed in the House on March 9, but the Senate Transportation Committee could not pass it for that chamber to consider it before the in-session veto period began.

When the General Assembly returned March 29, Senate leaders moved the bill from that committee to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which approved it the next day. The Senate approved an amended bill by a 21-16 vote, with the House concurring 59-40 before the session ended.

However, because the bill went to Beshear after the session ended, lawmakers cannot override his veto.

In his veto statement, the Democratic governor cited the last-minute committee switch and other reasons for his decision, adding that he thought the bill was “ambiguous” and did not properly address safety concerns.

“Other states that have passed provisions for fully autonomous vehicles have done so after careful study and consideration, and with extensive testing periods that require a licensed human to be behind the wheel,” the governor said.

No Democrats voted for the bill in either chamber, and the measure faced stiff opposition from organized labor.

In a statement to The Center Square last Tuesday, Bray said he clearly disagreed with the governor’s decision, especially since more states are allowing autonomous vehicles on their streets.

“This was an opportunity for our state to take the lead while ensuring public safety,” Bray said. “However, we will take the veto into consideration as we move forward with the issue during the legislative interim and the 2024 session.”

The bill would have allowed businesses to include self-driving vehicles in their fleet without a driver on board as long as they have technology allowing it to abide by all safety laws and assume “minimal risk” standards if any of that equipment fail or could not perform in certain conditions. Lawmakers also required anyone operating an AV to have at least $5 million in liability insurance coverage.

According to the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, 22 states have passed laws allowing companies to utilize the technology.