Green light, go: Self-driving cars are officially legal in Colorado

Author: Joey Bunch - June 2, 2017 - Updated: June 5, 2017


Now self-driving cars are really a thing in Colorado. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 213 to put the autonomous vehicles into state law Thursday.

Hickenlooper said it was the first time he ever signed a bill on the back of a car, political PR pro Cinamon Watson, who was there for the ceremony, passed along to me after.

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, with Reps. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Faith Winter, D-Westminster.

A study released last month suggested automated vehicles could drive 95 percent of the miles traveled each year in the U.S. as soon as 2030. Hill cited a portion of the RethinkX report that projected driverless cars could save the average family up to $5,600 a year.

“Driverless cars are just the beginning,” Hill said in a statement. “Here in Colorado, we’ve always been bold enough to pioneer new policies, technologies, and ideas. Hard work, dedication, and the will to conquer new frontiers inspires every Coloradan. With this legislation we send a clear message that Colorado plans to remain on the forefront of job creation and cutting edge ideas.”

While labor unions say the technology is unproven and threatens jobs, Bridges said the new law recognizes the vehicles’ fast approach into mainstream culture and recognizes their safer operation and economic value.

“It promotes core Colorado values of opportunity, independence and responsibility by bringing jobs and innovation to our state while protecting public safety,” Bridges said.

Added Winter: “Last year 605 people died on Colorado highways—there were over two million crashes and 90 percent of those were from human error. And autonomous vehicles can’t drive drunk, they can’t drive distracted, and they can’t drive when they’re tired. This is a law that sets the framework to increase safety on our roads and encourage innovation in a growing field.”

The new law says such automated vehicles are a matter of state, not local, law, and that if a vehicle complies with every other state and federal law, then they’re good to roll in Colorado. Senate Bill 213 also requires anyone testing such a vehicle get the go-ahead from the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Advocates say the self-driving vehicles are about way more than convenience. They’re safer than trusting humans and could someday offer an array of mobility options for the disabled and older Coloradans.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.