Auburn researchers offer lawmakers advice on self-driving vehicles

Published: Jan 20, 2017 1:00:00 PM
Media Contact: Chris Anthony,, 334.844.3447

A committee of Alabama legislators visited Auburn University on Thursday to learn more about the university’s research on self-driving vehicles before lawmakers consider introducing legislation governing these vehicles in the state.

The Alabama Legislative Committee to Study Self-Driving Vehicles heard presentations from experts in the automotive industry and academia, including Auburn University’s David Bevly, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory. 

Bevly told lawmakers that self-driving cars present an opportunity to improve safety on state roads. Each year, nearly 40,000 fatalities occur on U.S. roads, with almost 1,000 of those in Alabama. Many of these accidents are due to human error.

“You have the ability to potentially correct 90 percent of these accidents and reduce deaths on the roadways,” Bevly said.

Although self-driving vehicles have the potential to improve road safety, their widespread use could affect other sectors of Alabama’s economy, such as insurance and banking. The committee is studying the issue to determine if additional legislation is needed to allow the testing and use of automated vehicles on state roadways.

“We need to anticipate the potential problems and potential impacts that it could have on driver safety, on economics, commerce, banking, insurance and the [state’s] budget,” said Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, who chairs the committee.

Whatley said legislators are seeking input from experts in industry and academia so they can craft legislation “that’s correct the first time and that can also be modified later on” as the industry evolves.

Alabama’s 2017 legislative session begins Feb. 7.