No driver? No problem: Self-driving cars could soon be tested on Washington roads

Surrounded by executives from General Motors, Google and Uber, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order Wednesday that will allow driverless cars to test-drive on Washington roads, with or without a human behind the wheel.

Self-driving cars, with or without a human behind the wheel, could begin testing on Washington roads in 60 days, under an executive order signed by Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday.

Inslee’s order, signed in front of representatives of industry behemoths like General Motors, Google and Uber, allows companies to apply with the state Department of Licensing for permission, under pilot programs, to test-drive autonomous vehicles on state roads.

The governor wrote that autonomous vehicles could produce “transformational societal benefits” and touted his action as a way to bring more companies in a growing industry to the state and to promote safer car travel. He also talked about the vehicles’ potential, if combined with electric technology, to reduce carbon emissions.

He spoke of having a “relatively light touch” with regulations on the industry. The executive order spells out few specific requirements, other than vehicles must be capable of stopping safely in the event of a system failure.

The order also creates a work group, made up of officials from various state agencies, to propose, based on results of pilot programs, changes to rules or laws concerning autonomous vehicles.

Inslee said that 94 percent of accidents are caused by human error, a number that autonomous-vehicle technology has the potential to cut drastically.

The event took place at the headquarters of Echodyne, a Bellevue company that makes high-resolution radar that could be used in driverless cars. It’s one of more than a dozen companies in the state working on aspects of the autonomous-vehicle industry.

“One thing I know about radar, it doesn’t drive drunk, it doesn’t drive distracted,” Inslee said. “We humans are…

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