Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) requires a Street Use permit to conduct the testing of autonomous vehicles.

This permit requires that autonomous vehicles may only be tested in Seattle if there is a human driver in the vehicle who is monitoring and ready to take control if the need arises.

Companies testing autonomous vehicles must also follow all statewide legal requirements and other permit requirements which are listed below.

Autonomous vehicles are currently being tested in many cities around the country. In some places like California and Arizona, this testing is regulated at the statewide level. In other areas, like Seattle, Boston, and New York City, there are statewide laws as well as local city requirements for testing autonomous vehicles.

SDOT strives to balance innovation with appropriate guidelines to keep the traveling public safe as testing occurs on Seattle’s streets. SDOT is committed to employing best practices and engagement as we continue to develop our approach to autonomous vehicle testing.

What Kind of Autonomous Vehicles Require a Permit?

This permit is only required for companies that are testing heavily modified vehicles equipped with customized hardware, sensors, and software to research and develop new self-driving technologies.

You are not required to obtain a permit if you are an individual who purchased your car through a car dealership or directly from a manufacturer. While an increasing number of vehicles for sale now offer some automated features, no vehicles currently available for sale in the United States are fully automated or self-driving.

Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit Requirements:

Companies applying for a permit to test autonomous vehicles in Seattle will be required to provide the following:

  • Advanced notification of testing
  • Company logos clearly visible outside of the autonomous test vehicles
  • Certification of a test driver training program
  • Contact information and public outreach events
  • First responder interaction information for Seattle Fire and Police Departments
  • Notification of collisions, moving violations, or other reportable events as required by Washington State law
  • Proof of insurance
  • Other requirements detailed in the permit terms

These requirements will help to create a safer transportation environment and to manage public streets in a way that enriches public life and improves community health. This encourages innovation while keeping safety in the forefront. The requirements allow SDOT to gain a better understanding of autonomous vehicle operations so that we can plan for a future where fully autonomous vehicles are part of our transportation system.

How to Apply for an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit:

Questions or Comments?

If you are a member of the public with questions or an autonomous vehicle test company interested in obtaining a permit, please contact the SDOT Automated Mobility team at dot_automatedmobility@seattle.gov.