Will Virginia Soon Be the Capital of Driverless Cars?

Apr 24, 2017

A Google self-driving vehicle on display at Google's I/O conference in Mountain View, California. Governor Terry McAuliffe wants to make the Commonwealth a central figure in getting more automated vehicles on the road.
Credit AP / Eric Risberg, File

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe wants to make Virginia the capital of automated vehicles. He says it could help reduce accidents, and create a more efficient way to use Virginia’s highways and interstates. But what would it take? 

For the burgeoning marketplace of self driving cars, Virginia’s claim to fame is its lack of regulation — especially compared to California, currently the industry leader. But Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says becoming the leader in driverless cars will take much more than lacking regulation.

“You’ve got to figure out what state laws are affected. You’ve got to figure out some dedicated highway space you have. So there are lots of preliminary steps that are critical. They take some time. They probably take some work from the legislature.

Libby Schreffler with Fairfax County says if Virginia is really serious about getting more driverless cars on the road, local governments should consider the infrastructure development needed to help cars navigate. And then, she says, there may be a host of new taxes to make that happen.

“The localities that see the most automated driving traffic will be the ones that are benefiting the most from new tax revenues or will be most responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that will have to develop around them.”

But Virginia could face some serious competition. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan have already formed a regional effort to promote driverless cars on their roads.