The Driverless Commute: New Federal Autonomous Vehicle Rules on the Horizon

On Wednesday, May 22, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced they will publish in the Federal Register advanced notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPRMs) seeking public comment on possible amendments to two sets of federal regulations that impact autonomous vehicles: the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). The NHTSA notice is available here, and the FMCSA notice here. Both agencies’ calls for public comment are aimed at determining whether the rules and regulations currently in place could hamper the effective rollout of autonomous vehicles.

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The Driverless Commute in Law360: What’s Ahead For Autonomous Vehicle Test Driver Regs

Autonomous vehicles are layered with complex, still-emerging technology. As a result, what makes driverless cars tick is a mystery for virtually the entire public. That dynamic itself shouldn’t be all that’s concerning: We routinely interact with technology of which we have little understanding. But when it comes to driving, a task humans have controlled for generations, the thought of surrendering the wheel to a code-based operating system is uniquely unsettling.

Autonomous Vehicles - Car Interior

Empirically that should not be the case. Conservative estimates show that 94 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by human error. Autonomous vehicles, operating at peak performance and constantly communicating not only with traffic lights and stop signs but also with other vehicles and pedestrians, should significantly reduce, or even eliminate, car accidents, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care and repair costs.

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Smart Transportation and Infrastructure Challenges

Ed. note: This article was originally published in The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Law, Vo. 2, No. 3.

Public policy and technology have never been so interwoven. The authors of this article discuss smart transportation and infrastructure challenges and note that it is the responsibility of lawmakers to thoughtfully approach mobility with an eye to the not-so-distant autonomous future.

When it comes to transportation infrastructure in our country’s largest cities, we all agree that our cash strapped transit grids are bad, and traffic is worse. In any major city, one need only cast a gaze skyward to the swoop of cranes fashioning a towering, new skyline of glimmering glass and steel to understand that the sea of red that drowns our highways each rush hour is emblematic of the worsening road congestion and growing pains at hand.

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Talking cars: The FCC holds the key to unlocking the promise of autonomous vehicles

The dream fueling the development of driverless systems is a world where people and goods are transported quickly and efficiently, and without the accidents, pollution or visual clutter that are inevitable when humans control each vehicle individually. In this imagined new world, each vehicle would be optimized for its intended use, allowing us to reclaim all of the time and money we currently waste sitting in traffic or waiting for goods to arrive. In fact, the technologies needed to support autonomous vehicles are improving so quickly that this dream could soon become a reality, which has awakened regulators and lawmakers to the pressing need to confront the issue of digital roadway management.

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Federal AV legislation failed to cross the finish line in 2018. Where do we go from here?

When it comes to the future of autonomous vehicle regulations, very few things are black and white—except for the fact that no federal overhaul of AV safety regulations will come to pass in the immediate future. US Senator John Thune (R-SD), former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation before turning in the gavel to become his party’s majority whip, described the inability of the Senate to pass the AV Start Act in the 2018 lame-duck session in one word: “disappointing.”

Ultimately, the death of the bill was due to safety concerns championed by Democratic Senators Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Dianne Feinstein (CA), coupled with the tepid, on-again-off-again support of the American Association for Justice, a nonprofit advocacy and lobbying organization for plaintiff’s lawyers.

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Autonomous Vehicles Start Act Legislative Update

Bracing for a chaotic four-week period during which Republicans hope to clear the legislative decks before unified GOP control expires at year’s end, lawmakers returned to Washington Tuesday to the sound of a fast-ticking lame duck clock.

Alarmed by Democrats’ ascendancy and their new policy leverage, Republicans are eager to finally advance a light-touch autonomous vehicle regulatory framework after the proposal has languished for more than a year in committee over cyber and safety concerns.

In that time, a fragmented patchwork of state-level regulatory and safety regimes have propagated across the country, which industry has increasingly complained has hindered the safe and fair deployment of driverless technology in the United States.

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Federal autonomous vehicle legislation could get a lame-duck boost

Should Democrats take control of the US House of Representatives, the effort to pass federal autonomous vehicle legislation may be kicked into overdrive. Industry lobbyists and innovation enthusiasts see a window of opportunity in a lame-duck session where Senate Republicans would be more willing to pass a compromise bill rather than start the process from ground zero with a newly minted Democratic House.

The SELF Drive Act unanimously passed the House last September in rare a show of bipartisanship. Subsequently, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the Senate’s sister bill, the AV START Act. Following the unanimous House passage and a smooth committee process in the Senate, industry representatives were expecting the legislation to pass easily in a full Senate floor vote.

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