The state wants 200% more liability coverage than a normal driver.
If you're a company planning on testing your autonomous cars in Washington state, then we have some unfortunate news for you. The state is will be requiring companies testing self-driving technology to have an insurance policy that covers at least $5 million dollars starting January 1, 2023.
To put this in perspective, a normal, human-piloted vehicle only needs to have $25,000 worth of insurance to drive on public roads so we're talking about a 200% increase. This policy isn't all that surprising given how many high-profile autonomous crashes we have seen recently. The technology is just too unproven, so it makes sense a city isn't going to blindly trust a Model S to get the job done anymore.
On top of this, the new law will also demand that these companies self-certify with the city and obtain a permit too. It must also have vehicles with clearly visible logos, and company information filed with the city that's accessible to the public. Only three companies are registered to test in the state as of right now: NVIDIA Corporation, Zoox Inc, and Waymo LLC.
Washington has been a very popular state for autonomous vehicle testing due to its challenging terrain and climate. The best way for self-driving vehicles to get better is to be sent through the wringer, and seeing that rain can be a challenge for autonomous cars, Washington seems to be a good fit.
"Testing in a new city gives our vehicle and AI the chance to experience fresh challenges, including different weather and infrastructure, different by-laws, and a different driving culture," says Zoox on its website. "These challenges will help us iterate our hardware and software, ultimately broadening the capabilities of Zoox."
Zoox was purchased by Amazon in 2020 and says that it plans to scale up the company over time. It's competing head-to-head with Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company. Both entities have worked extensively to test self-driving taxi services, offering autonomous rides to regular travelers. NVIDIA is a younger entrant to the industry and is making a new push.
There is still a lot unknown about the future of self-driving cars, so more regulation like this isn't surprising. Hopefully, this doesn't become a big hindrance to the industry and sees projects snuffed out before they're able to really get going. The self-driving industry is a massively expensive undertaking, and we've seen in recent months what this can mean for these young companies. Still, they have to be kept in check and it's good to know lawmakers are making that a priority.