Hawaii Establishes AV Pilot Program

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. 

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Eric Tanenblatt

About Eric Tanenblatt

Eric Tanenblatt is the Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation of Dentons, the world's largest law firm. He also leads the firm's US Public Policy Practice, leveraging his three decades of experience at the very highest levels of the federal and state governments.

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William M. Kaneko

About William M. Kaneko

William Kaneko is a partner in the Honolulu office, where he advises clients on administrative law, government relations, public affairs, strategic planning, lobbying and community relations. He represents clients before government agencies at the federal, state and county levels.

For more than 25 years, Mr. Kaneko has advised Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and nonprofits on policy, programmatic and legal issues relating to energy, health care, economic development, sustainability, technology, real estate and civil rights. He is highly skilled and widely recognized for understanding the legal, regulatory, policy and political frameworks in which companies and governments exist, and for developing practicable, interdisciplinary solutions to advance key initiatives.

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Crawford Schneider

About Crawford Schneider

Crawford Schneider is an associate managing director in Dentons' Public Policy and Regulation practice focusing on matters involving state and local government affairs, including legislative/regulatory research and drafting, land use and zoning, economic development, public-private partnerships, public policy surrounding disruptive transportation, and international trade and investment.

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