'Drivers' of autonomous vehicles in the US will be able to text while behind the wheel but will not be able to drink and drive.
That is according to a set of draft rules for autonomous vehicles proposed by Nevada, which last week became the first US state to allow self-driving cars to undergoing testing on public roads.
Driverless cars use a combination of GPS, radar, sensors and other computer systems to navigate traffic and reach destinations without requiring input from a driver.
Despite their independence, the person sitting behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle in Nevada will still need to hold a driver’s licence and cannot be drunk.
Nevada has relaxed its newly enforced ban on mobile phones, however, allowing autonomous vehicle drivers to text when the car is in control.
In the initial testing phase, self-driving cars on public roads must have two people on board, including one in the driver’s seat ready to take control if the computer systems fail. Each car will be fitted with a black box to record data in the event of a crash.
Red number plates will identify the test cars, and once the technology is available to the public, they will be required to display green plates.
One of the unanswered questions remains who is responsible for autonomous vehicle crashes, the ‘driver’ or the car?
Nevada’s proposal attempts to tackle the issue, although the details are somewhat hazy: “If a driver is not necessary, the autonomous technology shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions which by their nature can have no application.”
Today’s report follows a story from earlier this week in which a University of Texas professor predicted autonomous vehicles could make traffic lights and stop signs a thing of the past when they become more mainstream.