The proper question might be whether or not states need legislation to better govern the current testing of CAVs, and then follow it with legislation covering the eventual long-term deployment of CAVs.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Nevada was the first state to authorize the testing of autonomous vehicles in 2011. Since then, 22 states—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and Washington D.C.—have enacted legislation related in some fashion to the testing and/or deployment of autonomous vehicles. Likewise, governors in Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin have issued executive orders related to testing autonomous vehicles.
At the federal legislative level, the topic of CAV is not new to Congress, and in fact was first addressed in MAP-21, the authorization of transportation funding enacted in early 2012. The more recent authorization, the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), includes specific language meant to “accelerate deployment of connected/autonomous vehicle technologies.” Last year the House passed HR 3388, Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act, or the SELF DRIVE Act. Soon after the Senate introduced The American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act, or AV START Act. The Senate bill has not been put before the full body for a vote, but is expected to at some point during 2018. Should it pass, the bill has many similarities to the House bill, but there are enough differences that a conference committee will be required if/when it is passed.
Regulation and legislation are tools that can, and are, being used to govern and impact CAV. But in contrast to the rapid evolution of technical issues, by nature they move slowly.