Self-driving cars are being tested in California and Texas, and one state lawmaker wants to see them on Tennessee roads as soon as possible.
State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, says he's working on a bill to permit driverless cars on the state's roadways.
Green believes Tennessee could become a research and development hub for self-driving cars. The state is already a center for auto manufacturing and logistics companies, and Green notes that Google, a major developer of autonomous vehicles, is opening a massive new data center in Clarksville.
Some of the technology that lets cars drive themselves is already in widespread use, in the form of lane-keeping and automatic-parking features. Systems now being tested would extend that principle.
"Right now, these vehicles can link up, drive a hundred miles-an-hour bumper to bumper, [and] park themselves," says Green. "I mean, the technology is phenomenal, and at least right now, the safety performance of autonomous vehicles is better than human performance."
In part, Green says, because humans drivers are spending a lot of time on their mobile devices.
"People want to be working while they're driving."
Green says the biggest questions aren't about safety. They're moral.
In an emergency, does the car veer to avoid a collision, even if it means going off a cliff? Or does it plow into another vehicle, even if that endangers others?
And when would the state require that a human driver take command of the wheel?
"We kind of got to agree on, what are the choices that we allow the software to make," says Green.
He hopes to introduce the bill in time for it to be debated during the 2016 legislative session.