IDOT officials welcoming of driverless cars

The head of the Illinois Department of Transportation says driverless cars are closer to the state’s roadways than you think.

IDOT Director Randy Blankenhorn told a City Club of Chicago crowd earlier this month that the state is actively courting driverless vehicle testers to begin running on Illinois’ roadways. He says a task force with his department, the state police, the Secretary of State, and others are working to ensure Illinois is ready to be one of the first to welcome automated vehicles to their roads.

“If you think automated vehicles are 20 years away, you’re living in a dream world because they’re here now,” he said.

Blankenhorn stressed that many states have a tendency to regulate innovation out of existence. He wants to make sure they don’t do that with driverless vehicles.

“Our motto has been ‘let’s not over-regulate what we don’t know,’” he said. “Too many states get out in front, thinking they know where this is going and regulate themselves out of innovation.”

Legislation that would give defined rules for automated vehicles is stuck in a House committee. State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, is the sponsor of a bill that would set clear boundaries for automated vehicles operating on the state’s thoroughfares. It was held back in committee after questions about liability regarding accidents and who was accountable.

Others were concerned about a driverless vehicle’s capability to see motorcycles.

The Consumer Technology Association gives states grades based on their laws either welcoming or stifling innovation. They gave Illinois high marks for laws that welcome new technology earlier this year. They also praised the state’s open road and sky regulations.