Tesla owners wouldn't be able to drive on most roads if this bill passes

Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-06 06:00:07-05

The future of driverless or "autonomous" cars is getting ever closer for Ohioans, with many car companies expecting to produce self-driving cars by 2020. But with new technology comes new regulations.

And if you already own a Tesla car with self-driving features in Ohio, a bill introduced last week could prohibit you from driving on most roads in the state.

The bill would only allow companies that make self-driving cars or self-driving car technology to use autonomous cars on Ohio’s public roads (any road that is owned and maintained at the federal level, the state, a county or city) for “testing purposes."

This could mean people who own Tesla cars with self-driving features wouldn't be able to use their cars legally in most places, even if they were being driven manually.  

If passed as law, there would be a $10,000 fine for each day a person is caught using a self-driving car if that person is not “testing” a car with an autonomous car company.

While the bill currently restricts the use of self-driving cars to only companies that make the technology or type of car, the bill will most likely be changed multiple times as more voices involved with the issue are heard, Rep. Cheryl Grossman, one of two state Republicans who introduced the bill, said.

“Many bills have a starting place, and will have 8 or 9 drafts before you come up with the final one,” Grossman said. “I thought it was important to have conversations on what we need here in Ohio. So just because it starts that way, doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll end up.”

The bill would also require the Ohio director of transportation to produce a report to see if any additional regulations would be needed to test self-driving cars in Ohio.

While the state is likely to embrace self-driving cars and bring in the new business that comes with it, ODOT wants to prioritize the safety of Ohio's drivers before autonomous cars are given free reign.

"We want to make sure that testing is done in a safe way. And that’s why we’re probably seeing some of these early regulations," ODOT Press Secretary Matt Bruning said. "That will probably be the first round of what you’ll see in legislative debate in making sure these tests are done in a safe environment.”

Seven states and the District of Columbia have already enacted legislation involving autonomous vehicle technology, and self-driving cars are planned to be tested on the Ohio Turnpike in the upcoming months.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at