Bill introduced to legalize robotic cars on Idaho highways

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COEUR d'ALENE - The effort to establish a thriving robotics industry here moved one step closer Tuesday when the Idaho Legislature introduced a bill that would legalize robotic cars on Idaho highways.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to introduce a bill that would facilitate the development of autonomous vehicles - self-driving cars - in Idaho and allow them to be tested on Idaho highways.

While it was just a procedural step to introduce the bill in the Senate State Affairs Committee where it will be heard this morning, Nick Smoot, who has helped spearhead the effort, was pretty excited.

"I am one of the people behind it," Smoot said, adding he has been working with Josh Harbrick, whose company develops software applications for autonomous vehicles.

"If this passes, we will be without a doubt the most attractive state for autonomous car startups," Smoot said, adding Coeur d'Alene will be the most attractive city due to last year's passage of a local ordinance encouraging the use of robotics in the city.

"Coeur d'Alene is where it is at," Smoot said. "This is huge, to be honest."

Smoot said Harbrick deserves a lot of the credit for the state legislation. He has been working with the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, to draft the legislation.

Smoot said Idaho's imperfect roads make the state attractive for research and development purposes and that, combined with the minimum restrictions on the industry, makes Idaho even more desirable.

"In the other states that allow autonomous vehicles there are some substantial barriers to entry," Smoot said. "We want to make Idaho viable for startups and the small guy."

Some sates require huge bonds and limit the number of vehicles that can be on the roadways, Smoot said.

"We want to remove those barriers to entry," he said. "We want to do what it takes to keep citizens safe, but still allow research and development to occur."

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