The Driverless Commute: Autonomous vehicle legislation revving its engine

Federal autonomous vehicle legislation is back on the table.

Over the past few months the Republican and Democratic staffs of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce committees have been holding meetings to hash out bits and pieces of what could, ultimately, form a comprehensive autonomous driving bill. Notably, the bipartisan-bicameral approach has focused, up to this point, on the issues where there is the most consensus: exemptions, testing and evaluation and the establishment of an automated vehicles advisory council. The bipartisan working groups released discussion drafts for each subsection. While exemptions and testing have always been part of the conversation, the Advisory Council, as least as it is presented in the working draft, is a new wrinkle.

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The Driverless Commute: Is it still too soon for parking lot deployment? South Korea plans massive smart-road investment ahead of AVs; and European carmakers beginning to bristle at tough regs

Welcome again to the Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons, a digest clocking the most important technical, legal and regulatory developments shaping the path to global autonomy.

1. Parking lots: the next great frontier

A decade after Google launched its famous self-driving moonshot, the central question of the technology’s readiness and safety remains an unresolved scramble of ethics and profit.

No one—not car makers, technologists, regulators, or consumer safety advocates—can agree on specific standards of accepted safety for the open-road testing of autonomous vehicles.

  • The still-high motor vehicle fatality rate, which has been on steady decline in the United States since the 1960s, belies a truth about driving: it’s already a remarkably safe activity.
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The Driverless Commute: The four policy areas that cities must address to make the autonomous era people-centric; AVs positively last-century bugs; and robo-race car sets world record on speed.

1. Cars ruined the American city. Can AVs save it?

Since at least the 15th century, the era’s dominant mode of transportation has always had a way of exerting itself, often unfavorably, on the fabric of cities, but nowhere responded to the automobile with the same ill-considered enthusiasm as the American city, which forfeited one of its most precious public social spaces—its street—in a way that Europeans never did.

Now, urban planners from the United States’ largest cities believe the arrival of autonomous vehicles represents a rare opportunity for car-subservient downtowns to reset the board finally.

This week the National Association of City Transportation Officials, an 81-city coalition that includes New YorkBostonAtlantaLos Angeles, and Seattleunveiled a 131-page blueprint to refocus contemporary urban planning to take advantage of self-driving cars. 

The plan envisions a future of more parks and fewer parking lots by addressing high-capacity transit, smart-city data collection and use, congestion pricing mechanisms, and the delivery of urban freight.

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The Driverless Commute: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) release cybersecurity guidance for Internet connected devices

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released draft standards for IoT cybersecurity that may inform similar efforts in the autonomous vehicle industry. The report, entitled “A Starting Point for IoT Device Manufacturers,” seeks to provide the IoT device industry with a better understanding of necessary and appropriate cybersecurity features. Specifically, it highlights best practices for secure software design and development. NIST is seeking public comment on its proposals through September 30, 2019.

As the broader IoT industry coalesces around specific security practices, automotive and technology companies will gather valuable intelligence on security measures that are fundamental to widespread adoption and public acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

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The Driverless Commute: Urban planning nightmares with AV deployment; AV industry’s diversity and inclusion crisis; and how bogus satellite data could hack an AVs operation.

1. When AVs are king

New York City

Cities were once highly compact, walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. Then the car came along.

Now, the modern American city, sprawling and traffic-plagued, is an ecosystem in complete service to cars. But what if AV deployment invites an even deeper calcification of the cars-first mentality in city centers?

Just imagine sidewalk gates. That was the whacky idea floated by one unnamed “automotive industry official” in a recent New York Times article:

“In New York, the unwritten rule is plain: Cross the street whenever and wherever — just don’t get hit.

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The Driverless Commute: Autonomous Vehicles: US Legal and Regulatory Landscape

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Making a car drive itself is hard. Remaining compliant while doing it is harder still, thanks to government stakeholders advancing new, complex and sometimes conflicting regulatory frameworks in every corner of the country.

As the driverless revolution shifts into fifth gear, companies seeking to develop, deploy and scale autonomy face a shifting and uncertain legal landscape. Dentons boasts the world’s first and largest multi-discipline, multi-jurisdictional autonomous vehicle practice, with the expertise and footprint necessary to provide sound legal, technical and policy advice.

Our Autonomous Vehicles: US Legal and Regulatory Landscape report focuses on the US AV regulatory framework at both the state and federal levels, as well as providing the most up-to-date information on testing and deployment, liability and insurance, regulatory agencies and political leaders, and data privacy and security.

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The Driverless Commute: NHTSA, FMCSA extend comment periods for amendments to regulations impacting AVs

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have extended the comment periods for 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). Originally, the comment period was scheduled to conclude on July 29. It will now remain open until August 28. The advance notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPRMs) were originally published on May 28.

Both agencies’ calls for public comment are aimed at determining whether the rules and regulations currently in place are, collectively, an obstacle to the effective rollout of autonomous vehicles.

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