Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The legislation would regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on public roads.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi House concurred with the Senate’s amendments to the Mississippi Fully Autonomous Vehicle Enabling Act of 2023 (H.B. 1003), sending it on to the desk of Governor Tate Reeves (R).
When implemented, the bill would regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on public roads.
H.B. 1003 defines “fully autonomous vehicle” as a motor vehicle equipped with an automated driving system designed to function without a human driver as a Level 4 or Level 5 automation system under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standard J3016.
On the House floor, State Representative Charles Busby (R), Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and candidate for Southern District Transportation Commissioner, explained what was amended by the Senate.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is our autonomous vehicle bill,” Busby said. “The only thing that changed in the law enforcement interaction plan, we’re allowing [Department of Public Safety] to set the parameters of that plan. That’s the only change.”
According to the legislation, prior to operating a fully autonomous vehicle on the public roads of this state without a human driver, a person will be required to submit a law enforcement interaction plan to the Department of Public Safety that describes:
- How to communicate with a fleet support specialist who is available during the times the vehicle is in operation.
- How to safely remove the fully autonomous vehicle from the roadway and steps to safely tow the vehicle.
- How to recognize whether the fully autonomous vehicle is in autonomous mode.
- Any additional information the manufacturer or owner deems necessary regarding hazardous conditions or public safety risks associated with the operation of the fully autonomous vehicle.
- Other elements determined to be necessary by the Department of Public Safety and made publicly available on the Department of Public Safety’s website by July 1, 2023.
If a person fails to submit a law enforcement interaction plan, the Department of Public Safety may immediately issue a cease-and-desist letter prohibiting the operation of the person’s fully autonomous vehicle on public Mississippi roads until the person submits the law enforcement interaction plan.
Rep. Busby, who authored the legislation, said if you looked at a map of the southeastern United States, you would see this glaring hole of where Mississippi is with no AV regulations whatsoever.
“And in Mississippi, if something isn’t regulated, it’s legal, so it was important that we put some regulations in place before AVs came to our state,” Busby said. “I think the bill is very good, but there’s always that issue of: you don’t know what you don’t know so I put a two year repealer on a portion of the bill that I believe to be most significant to the safety of Mississippians on our roadways and that’s the law enforcement interaction section of the bill.”
Busby said it will be revisited in two years to determine what was learned over the two years and what they need to change regarding law enforcement interaction plan.
“I think we got a good piece of legislation put together,” Busby said. “I hope the Governor will sign it and at least we’ll be getting a start on the use of AVs here in Mississippi.”
At the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, Busby said they worked closely with the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation to ensure they had legislation that was good for Mississippi.
“With a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers nationwide and the expectation that this number will double in the next few years, AVs are destined to be part of our commerce and it’s imperative that we have regulations that support them and Mississippi,” Rep. Busby said at the time.
Jeff Farrah, Executive Director for Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA), released a statement on the bill, thanking Busby and looking to the benefits AVs will bring to Mississippi as they test and deploy in the state.
“The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association thanks State Rep. Charles Busby for recognizing the transformational benefits of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and his leadership on HB 1003,” Farrah said. “Over the last decade, Mississippi has tragically seen the highest rates of motor vehicle fatalities in the nation. We encourage Mississippi lawmakers to pass HB 1003 so that AVs can fulfill their potential to improve roadway safety for residents while bolstering supply chain resilience, enhancing mobility and supporting economic growth.”