Self-driving cars, e-scooters, more commercial uses for drones and drone-ports and the expanded use of electric vehicles were all part of the discussion at an interim study held this week by the Senate Transportation Committee. The Monday hearing was requested by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, who serves as vice-chair of the committee. He said emerging transportation technologies bring with them a host of opportunities and concerns that need to be addressed sooner, rather than later.
“It wasn’t that many years ago that self-driving cars seemed more like science fiction, but the fact is they’re going to be here in Oklahoma in the near future. There are many issues that need to be addressed before that happens, ranging from liability and safety concerns to economic development potential,” said Bergstrom, R-Adair. “The more I’ve studied this, the clearer it becomes that Oklahoma must be out in front of these technologies instead of trying to deal with complex regulatory needs after the fact. The interim study gave us a chance to hear from the experts as we prepare to examine possible legislation.”
Presenters included Sec. of Transportation, Tim Gatz, Tom Robins, Facilitator of the Oklahoma Autonomous Vehicle Steering Committee at the Department of Transportation, Leslie Gamble with AAA Oklahoma, James Grimsley, Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives with the Choctaw Nation, and other transportation technology experts.
This past session, Bergstrom wrote and passed the Oklahoma Driving Automation System Uniformity Act, which preempts local laws and asserts that only the State may enact laws or regulations regarding the use of motor vehicles equipped with driving automation systems in Oklahoma. That new law took effect last month, but Bergstrom said there are many other concerns to deal with in the coming session and beyond.
“We’re seeing an expanded use of electric vehicles for city bus services and state fleets and in the private sector. But when gas and diesel taxes are used to help us maintain and build new roads and bridges, how are we going to address the lost revenue by those who use our roads but aren’t paying fuel taxes? And there are privacy concerns as well. Companies that manufacture e-scooters collect data every time someone rides one, but who else can and should access that information and under what circumstances? How can we position our state to take advantage of the new job opportunities that come with these technologies? We have a lot of work to do, and this study was helpful in giving us a glimpse at what’s coming down the road,” Bergstrom said.