The self-driving car war between Arizona and California is heating up

Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that's party of Waymo's fleet
Waymo
Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that's party of Waymo's fleet

Arizona governor Doug Ducey issued a new executive order on Thursday that makes official what many already assumed: fully driverless cars without anyone behind the wheel are allowed to operate on public roads. The only caveat is that the vehicles follow all existing traffic laws and rules for cars and drivers.

"As technology advances, our policies and priorities must adapt to remain competitive in today's economy," Ducey said in a statement. "This executive order embraces new technologies by creating an environment that supports autonomous vehicle innovation and maintains a focus on public safety."

Arizona is a hotbed of autonomous vehicle testing, with over 600 self-driving cars operating on public roads in the state today. Both Waymo and Intel are testing their autonomous cars in Chandler, while Uber and GM's respective vehicles can be seen on the roads in and around Scottsdale.

Waymo is already operating its fully driverless minivans on public roads and plans to soon open those vehicles to members of its Early Rider program. It has also applied for a ride-hailing permit to operate a commercial taxi service.

Ducey's move to codify his state's permissive policies to autonomous vehicle testing comes a few days after California announced that it would permit fully driverless cars to operate on its roads starting in April. Previously, a safety driver was required to be behind the wheel during autonomous testing.

There is an intense competition between both states for self-driving car companies. Arizona has fewer regulations, but most of these companies are based in California. Still, California requires companies obtain a permit and submit annual reports on software disengagements. Arizona requires zero public disclosures.

Arizona prides itself as "being part of the innovation and trying to stay out of the way of innovation," said Kevin Beisty, deputy director for policy at the Arizona Department of Transportation, at a public forum in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

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