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Georgia officially OKs self-driving cars on public roads

Georgia is officially joining the autonomous vehicle party.

On Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill that would allow self-driving cars to operate on public roads.

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The legislation, Senate Bill 219, requires operators of the autonomous vehicles to register their vehicle with the state and adhere to certain insurance requirements, the AJC previously reported.

“These cars are going to save lives; they’re going to reduce DUIs and reduce fatalities on our state and local roads,” said Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch, the bill’s sponsor.

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Before receiving Gov. Deal’s signature, the legislation passed the Senate 53-0.

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The original version of the bill in 2015 faced opposition for its “unacceptable” language regarding what the legislation considered a manufacturer from the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which represents Uber, Lyft and other companies.

The companies fought for representation under the definition in other states considering similar legislation, the AJC reported.

“As currently drafted, this legislation would slow self-driving technology advancement and includes anti-tech, protectionist elements,” Evangeline Georgia, a representative for Uber, said in a statement of the original version.

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The new bill, however, has the support of traditional manufacturers, technology companies and ride-share companies.

Only five other states — California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Tennessee — and the District of Columbia have officially passed laws on autonomous driving.

Most still require drivers behind the wheel.

“There really hasn’t been a number of states that have laws to date, so Georgia’s really at the forefront,” Harry Lightsey, executive director of public policy on emerging technologies at General Motors, told NPR. “In the long term, self-driving vehicles have the potential to have tremendous impact on Georgia in terms of public safety, reduction of congestion and many other aspects of quality of life.”

GM is already testing 50 cars in three other cities: San Francisco, Scottsdale, Arizona and Detroit.

But it’ll be a few years before GM’s self-driving cars would hit Georgia roads, Lightsey said.

More politics coverage at politics.blog.ajc.com.

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