Arizona innovates self driving cars while California pioneers regulation

by Steve Blum • , ,

California is on the receiving end of another slagging for its top heavy approach to regulating the development and deployment of self-driving cars. Ian Adams works for the R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C. consulting group – AKA think tank – that finds its home on the dark public policy corner where industry, academia and government intersect. Writing in The Hill, he points to the departure of the Waymo – formerly Google – autonomous vehicle venture for free range Arizona…

The reasoning behind Waymo’s deployment decision was simple: California opted for an overly prescriptive approach to regulating technological innovation. The state’s regulatory process simply too slow for it to capitalize on its seemingly insurmountable natural advantages…

Meanwhile, down in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey’s aggressively pro-growth administration issued an executive order to encourage self-driving vehicles, with only the barest necessary constraints on how they may be deployed. Since then, predictably, developers have flocked to the state.

He has a point. California took an early lead in opening the door to development of self-driving technology, but instead of offering a gateway to the open road, the door led to a bureaucratic maze. When the California department of motor vehicles slapped down Uber, the governor of Arizona scored quick and easy points by welcoming them, and any of the other 20 companies operating under the DMV’s supervision, to his state.

It worked.

The DMV’s response was to double down and publish new draft rules last month that close the loophole Uber thought it saw, generally tighten up language defining self-driving cars and adding new red tape to the testing process.

Autonomous vehicles are a step into the unknown for everyone, industry, consumers and government officials alike. The word for that is pioneering; a word we expect to find in the same sentence as California and high tech. But expectation is not entitlement. Unless the DMV rethinks its role, it’s a word we won’t be hearing as often.