Governor's Office: Arizona's Self Driving Oversight Committee "fulfilled its purpose"

PHOENIX - Governor Doug Ducey welcomed 21st-century technology to Arizona, publicly rolling out the welcome mat at a press conference in December 2016.

It was just four months prior to the press conference, Arizona's Self-Driving Oversight Committee held its first meeting. At the time, the governor said this nine member committee, made up of staff from several state agencies, would give guidance on the best way to advance testing on public roads.

The committee's first meeting was August 15, 2016. It included a PowerPoint presentation on driverless cars and public comment. The meeting lasted 42 minutes.

The committee's second meeting was two months later, in October of 2016 however minutes were not taken so it's not clear who attended, what the members talked about or how long they met. 

The committee did not formally meet in 2017 and has yet to meet in 2018.

John Simpson with the non-partisan Consumer Watchdog Group says he isn't sure what the committee could have done because nothing has been spelled out.

"I have no idea what they were supposed to be doing," said Simpson. "In California there was legislation passed. It set up the Department of Motor Vehicles and charged them with drafting the regulation."

ABC15 reached out to committee members. ADOT, which represents two committee members, says there are no guidelines on how many times the committee is supposed to meet and says conversations between committee members were going on even though they didn't formally meet.

The governor's office tells ABC15 the committee did fulfill its purpose. 

Below is the full statement from the governor's office:

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On the oversight committee: 

The Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee was established with the specific purpose, as outlined by the governor's August 25, 2015, executive order, to advise on how to advance the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles. That committee has fulfilled that purpose; first, meeting to review the executive order issued by the governor and, second, meeting to review federal guidelines related to autonomous testing put forward by U.S Department of Transportation. 

On public safety: 

When it comes to ensuring the safety of the public as driver-less technology has advanced, the governor has been continually advised by members of the Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation, and his policy team. Initial regulations issued through the August 25, 2015 EO required an operator be behind the wheel of every autonomous vehicles, and required testing companies to comply with all roadway laws that protect public safety. In the case of the recent Uber accident, an operator was behind the wheel. 

As advances have occurred, regulations and guidelines have kept up. A result of that is the executive order the governor issued on March 1, 2018 that, among other actions, required all automated driving systems be in compliance with federal and state safety standards, provided guidelines about who is responsible in the event of the accident involving a fully autonomous vehicle, and instructed DPS to work to make sure all law enforcement officers across the state know how to deal with these new vehicles. 

The bottom line: 

Since the beginning, public safety has been the governor's number one priority. All testing companies are required to follow Arizona laws and regulations. All companies will be held accountable, and we will take strong action against any company or operator that breaks the law or puts public safety in jeopardy. No exceptions.

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