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Texas Lawmaker Files Bill to Regulate Self-Driving Cars

Under a bill filed by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, self-driving cars like the one Google drove around Texas last month would have to have a licensed driver behind the wheel and meet minimum insurance requirements.

Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Phil Wilson gets a ride in a Google self-driving car on Feb. 19, 2013, in front of the Hilton Austin.

Two weeks after Google showcased its self-driving car to local officials in Austin, a Texas lawmaker has filed a bill attempting to regulate the use of the futuristic technology.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, filed HB 2932 on Thursday to define “autonomous motor vehicle” and “autonomous technology” in the state’s transportation code. The bill would require that a licensed driver be held responsible for such a vehicle when it is in use, even if the car is operating without the driver inside it. It also directs the Texas Department of Transportation to set up rules for the use of such vehicles in the state, including minimum insurance requirements. Nevada approved similar laws last year, though that state requires a person in the driver's seat and passenger's seat of a self-driving car while it is in use.

Google demonstrated its self-driving car last month at the Texas Transportation Forum, a conference hosted by TxDOT. Company officials told The Texas Tribune they didn’t solicit permission or clearance from any state agencies before testing the car on public highways and streets in Texas because the state’s laws only refer to cars operated by drivers. The company drove the car in autopilot mode through parts of Texas to get it to the conference in Austin. Google employees then offered demonstrations of the car’s self-driving technology on I-35 to local and state officials.

Anthony Levandowski, project manager for Google’s self-driving car research, said at the conference that he hoped to have self-driving software on the market within five years. Company officials have said they are working with both state and federal regulators on updating driving regulations to address self-driving vehicles. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the proposed bill's requirements related to self-driving vehicles and licensed drivers.

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