On September 15th, 2020, Governor David Ige signed House Bill 2590 into law, creating a pilot program within the Hawaii Department of Transportation to allow for autonomous vehicle (AV) testing on Hawaii public roads. The law, which represents an important step for AVs in Hawaii, requires that a conventional human driver be physically present in the vehicle at all times to supervise the vehicle and prevent collision is necessary. Both Governor Ige and Ed Sniffen, the HDOT Deputy Director for Highways, are optimistic that that Hawaii will become a leader in the AV industry.
The passage of the law was due, in no small part, to the efforts of the Hawaii Autonomous Vehicle Legal Task Force which included Dentons Partner Bill Kaneko. The Task Force encouraged the Hawaii State Legislature to enact legislation to account for AVs.
While the decision to sign the Act is a landmark moment in Hawaii’s pursuit of intelligent transportation, the state has a history of investing in innovation. In August 2020 the University of Hawaii began working with the Hawaii Department of Transportation to implement a “Vehicle-to-Everything” communication technology. The system will be testing connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in conjunction with traditional drivers, bikers, and pedestrians in order to improve vehicle data collection, intersection safety, and efficiency along the Nimitz Highway and Ala Moana Boulevard corridor. The research program received $6 million in funding and aims to provide valuable data to expedite the integration of AVs into dynamic urban environments.
Hawaii, being an island state, is uniquely positioned to roll out cutting-edge, transformative AV projects. The combination of an insulated traffic environment, relatively short commuting routes, a comparatively small population, and a limited number of weather and road variables make Hawaii an attractive AV testing environment. We expect the passage of the new law, paired with existing investments in connected transit technology, to increase interest in the state among autonomous vehicle manufacturers.
If you have any questions about autonomous vehicles in Hawaii please contact Bill Kaneko or Eric Tanenblatt.