Last week Governor Sandoval ceremoniously bestowed the first license plate for an autonomous vehicle on a Freightliner tractor-trailer. This truck, which has logged over 10,000 hours of autonomous driving (a requirement for the license), is the first truck authorized to navigate the roadways without a human operator.
With the symbolic bestowal of the license plate, Nevada drew attention to itself as the first state to create regulations allowing the use of self-driving vehicles. For now, the Freightliner can only drive itself in Nevada, though California and Michigan may soon follow suit. Until there is a federal regulation to provide some consistency in the laws regarding autonomous vehicles, the Freightliner will only be able to ferry itself around in states that allow it—which for now, is limited to Nevada.
Nevada foresaw the legalization of autonomous driving as early as 2011. In that year, two significant laws were passed involving the use of autonomous vehicles. The first issued a directive to the “The Department [of Public Safety] shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.” NRS 482A.100(1). These mandated regulations made their way into the Nevada Administrative Code the following year, which, among other things, requires a driver’s license with a “G Endorsement” for a person to operate an autonomous vehicle. NAC 482A. However, also in the code, the person who “operates” an autonomous vehicle is the person who “causes the autonomous vehicle to engage, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the vehicle while it is engaged.” In other words, the G driver’s license is a license to turn on an autonomous vehicle, not to drive one.
The second was the statute prohibiting certain use of wireless devices while driving. The law carved out an exception for when these devices can be used: “[f]or the purposes of this section, a person shall be deemed not to be operating a motor vehicle if the motor vehicle is driven autonomously through the use of artificial-intelligence software and the autonomous operation of the motor vehicle is authorized by law.” NRS 484B.165(7).
Autonomous vehicles must have special license plates like the one pictured to the left. If you would like to apply for your autonomous vehicle business license, you can find information at the Nevada DMV website.
You can read more about the unveiling of the new autonomous Freightliner here:
Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.