State And Federal Laws, Regulations And Policy


UDOT believes that connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) are one component of the transportation landscape of the future in the state of Utah. Utah aims to be at the forefront of CAV development and implementation and to leverage these advancements to improve safety, mobility, and the environment. In addition to the many technological issues surrounding CAVs, there are some important regulatory issues – federal, state, and local laws, regulations and policies. Many aspects of transportation are changing, some very quickly, and UDOT is engaging in discussions and activities surrounding the regulatory environment so it can keep pace with the technological changes. Specifically, UDOT’s activities have been focused in three areas:

1. Engage in national discussions and planning for these technologies, including encouraging federal efforts and providing feedback on policies and guidance documents;

2. Support the Utah Legislature and engage with other state agencies to update appropriate statutes, rules and policy; and

3. Test and deploy technology to better understand the technologies and applications, their potential uses and benefits, and how the technology and policy intersect.

Vehicles operating on public roadways are subject to both state and national laws. There are some clear, long-held boundaries about which level of government has jurisdiction over the elements of highway transportation. Simply, these boundaries are:

The Federal Government has authority to develop, establish, and enforce standards related to the manufacturing of motor vehicles. Primarily, those standards are found within the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The standards are based on extensive research and testing. All vehicles sold and operated in the U.S. must adhere to the FMVSS, which includes requirements for seat belts, air bags, rear-view mirrors, competent bumpers, etc. A vehicle that doesn’t comply with the FMVSS can be operated, but only with explicit permission from NHTSA.

State Government has the authority to regulate the operation of cars, and the actions of vehicle owners and drivers.Motor vehicles are licensed by agencies of the State, and are required by state law to be insured. Vehicle maintenance is regulated by requiring periodic inspections and emissions testing. Drivers are tested and licensed by an agency of the state. State and local governments set speed limits and other rules about how and where vehicles can be operated. State and local governments also have authority to enforce these various provisions.

The introduction of CAVs, particularly various automated features, is challenging the traditional rules and regulations surrounding the manufacturing and operation of motor vehicles. While the FMVSS requires vehicles to have a rear view mirror, if the highly automated vehicle has no driver’s seat, and needs no human driver, why should there be a rear view mirror? And, while the state licenses human drivers to operate a vehicle, if the computer is the operator, how should the state test and license that operation? Further, since the computer operator is part of the manufactured vehicle, does jurisdiction of this “driver” now fall within federal control rather than state control? These and many other issues are being considered in legislative, regulatory, and policy changes.





SELF DRIVE ACT: In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), the U.S. House of Representatives introduced and passed H.R.3388, the SELF DRIVE Act. The bill established the federal role in ensuring the safety of highly automated vehicles by encouraging testing and deployment and required safety assessments of these vehicles. The bill required developers of these systems to produce cybersecurity and privacy plans for the vehicles. It also preempted states from enacting certain laws regulating highly automated vehicles. This bill was not considered by the Senate, and did not become law.

AV START ACT: In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), the U.S. Senate introduced S.1885, the AV START Act. Similar to the House legislation, the bill established the federal role with respect to highly automated vehicles, but with different language than that found in H.R.3388. In addition to cybersecurity provisions, it had provisions dealing with data access, public education, and child safety seats. This bill did not pass the Senate, largely because of concerns that it did not adequately address safety concerns.

RECENT ACTIVITIES: In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), there were bipartisan efforts to draft a new bill dealing with automated vehicles. A specific bill was never filed.


NHTSA is actively working to create a set of regulations or guidelines, similar to the FMVSS, focused specifically on automated vehicles. Their efforts include detailed research projects, a careful evaluation of each element of the current FMVSS, and outreach to stakeholders. In November, 2020, NHTSA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public input on the principles to govern the safe behavior of automated driving systems.

NHTSA also has an active program to issue exceptions for the operation of highly automated vehicles which do not comply with the FMVSS, usually for testing and demonstration. An example of this is UDOT’s deployment of the Automated Shuttle Pilot Project, where a low-speed vehicle controlled by Level 4 driving automation has been allowed to operate. NHTSA has issued exemptions which specifically allow this vehicle to operate in several locations in Utah.


In September 2016, the U.S.DOT released “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety”. This document outlined the principles which were intended to guide the initial regulatory framework for automated vehicles. It also described the current regulatory tools used by NHTSA, defined potential regulatory tools which would be added, and offered policy guidance for states.

In September 2017, the U.S.DOT released “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety”, commonly referred to as “AV 2.0”. Reflecting a change in the federal administration and approach, this document replaced the “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy“, and shifted the federal role in automated vehicles from being largely regulatory toward voluntary compliance by system developers.

In October 2018, the U.S.DOT released “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0”, which was built upon, but didn’t replace, AV 2.0. Its primary focus was to expand the scope of automated vehicle policy to all modes of on-road transportation.

In February 2020, the U.S.DOT released “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0”. Like its predecessor, it didn’t replace the two earlier versions of federal guidance, but added to them. Its primary focus was to expand the scope of work in this area beyond the U.S.DOT to 38 other federal agencies. The document outlines the efforts being undertaken by each of these agencies.

In January 2021, the U.S.DOT released the “Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan (AVCP)”. This document builds on previous documents and lays out the Department’s multimodal strategy to promote collaboration and transparency, modernize the regulatory environment, and prepare the transportation system for the safe integration of automated driving systems.



The Utah State Legislature has taken a number of steps over the past several years, including studying the issues surrounding automated vehicles and enacting several pieces of legislation positioning the state as a leader in the implementation of CAV technology. The Legislature is interested in enabling the safe operation of CAVs on public roadways, encouraging the development and testing of these potentially life-saving technologies, and attracting business and investment to the state.

CAV technologies have the potential to overcome the human errors, distractions, and impairments that lead to hundreds of fatalities on Utah roads each year and tens of thousands throughout the nation.Utah maintains its responsibility over the registration, insurance, liability coverage, and safe operations of motor vehicles in Utah regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated by a conventional human driver or an Automated Driving System (ADS). The following bills enacted by the Utah State Legislature (described here in general terms) have built the necessary framework to ensure that these lifesaving technologies have an unimpeded path to safe integration within Utah’s transportation system.

2015 H.B.373 “Connected Vehicle Testing”: This bill enabled the testing of truck platooning by allowing an exclusion to the legal following distance between two vehicles. In truck platooning, two vehicles are linked with wireless communication so that on-board systems can carefully control speed and braking in a coordinated manner, allowing them to travel close together at freeway speeds. Both vehicles have drivers in this scenario. Developers of platooning systems indicate that the “drafting” effect of having one vehicle follow closely behind another reduces fuel consumption and improves shipping efficiency. Utah was one of the first states to pass legislation allowing connected vehicle platoons to operate without having to adhere to the safe following distances to which human drivers are held.

Following the passage of H.B.373, UDOT worked with Peloton, a developer of truck platooning systems, to demonstrate the technology. In November 2015, a demonstration was held on I-80, west of Salt Lake City, using two trucks. Utah officials were able to ride along in the vehicles and witness the system in operation. Additional testing was performed on I-70 in eastern Utah.

2016 H.B.280 “Automated Vehicle Study”: This bill provided some definitions of automated vehicles, required state agencies to encourage the responsible testing and operation of automated vehicles within the state, and required several state agencies, including UDOT, to study the issues around automated vehicles and provide a report and recommendations. This report was presented to the Legislature in October 2016.

2018 S.B.56 “Vehicle Platooning Amendments”: This bill amended the provisions enacted in 2015 (H.B.373) by adding further definitions of the technology and enabling operational platooning, not just limited testing.

22018 H.B.217 “Personal Delivery Devices”: This bill permits an electrically powered device capable of operating without human control or monitoring to transport property on a sidewalk or crosswalk at speeds not to exceed 10 mph. In essence, this language allows automated delivery devices.

2019 H.B.57 “Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act”: Prior to 2019, Utah law stipulated that a government agency in Utah may not obtain data transmitted by an electronic device without a warrant or informed consent of the device owner. UDOT was concerned that this provision in the law would prohibit the deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure systems which would wirelessly collect anonymous information from vehicles that included the location of the vehicle. UDOT has been actively deploying these types of systems, using DSRC radios, since 2014, as part of a nationwide effort to enable connected vehicle technology. This bill, in 2019, significantly changed the language of the statute to restrict the focus of the law to electronic information obtained by law enforcement agencies during criminal investigations and prosecutions. These changes removed the concerns that UDOT had about this language.

2019 H.B.101 “Autonomous Vehicle Regulations”: This bill allows an Automated Driving System (ADS) to operate a motor vehicle on the road without human assistance or monitoring as long as the ADS operates the vehicle in compliance with state traffic laws and regulations. The vehicle is still required to be titled, registered, and insured, but the Division of Motor Vehicles may revoke the registration of an ADS-equipped vehicle if the ADS is operating in an unsafe manner or if the ADS is being engaged, or activated, in an unsafe manner. In essence, vehicles that have Level 3, Level 4 or Level 5 driving automation systems, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, can operate on Utah highways with or without a human driver without any special permits. An earlier version of this bill was introduced in the 2018 Legislature (H.B. 371), but was not enacted.

In the Spring of 2019, following the passage of H.B.101, UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) began an Automated Shuttle Pilot Project, where a low speed, automated shuttle was operated in a number of locations in Utah.

2020 H.B.277 “Personal Delivery Devices Amendments”: This bill amends the bill originally passed in 2018 (H.B.217) to allow personal delivery devices to operate along the shoulder of roadways at speeds up to 20 mph, as long as those roadways have posted speed limits of less than 45 mph. The bill also provided that local jurisdictions could reasonably regulate the operation of these devices.

Many other states have considered or enacted legislation related to automated vehicles. A few have enabled policy through Executive Orders. These automated vehicle activities are closely monitored by the National Conference of State Legislators, a professional association. Their summary of legislative activity by the states can be found at:


As described in the “Legislation” section, Utah law allows the operation of vehicles with an automated driving system on Utah roads, with or without a human driver, as long as the vehicle meets federal regulations (or has a formal exclusion), is properly titled, registered and insured, and operates in compliance with traffic laws. No permitting process or regulatory structure exists for these vehicles in Utah.


Although Utah does not have a formally established Automated Vehicle Task Force (legislation to establish one was proposed in 2017 but not enacted), collaboration occurred between legislative, agency and industry leaders during the development of H.B.101. Discussions continue to take place between these entities on related issues.

    • Encourage the adoption of connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies in Utah to help improve safety and mobility
    • Advance Utah leadership in CAV technology development through research, testing and deployment
    • Incorporate CAV elements into all applicable UDOT activities, and involve UDOT staff broadly in CAV initiatives
    • Formulate policies to steer CAV and emerging technologies toward the greatest public good
    • Leverage CAV activities in Utah to increase investment and economic development in the state
    • Establish near- and long-term investment strategies for CAV and emerging technologies within UDOT