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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The Driverless Commute: GM, like Waymo before it, missed an AV deadline, but what does it mean for the industry going forward?; tension building between AV, transit advocates

1. The big question before AV makers: first, or best?

General Motors Cruise Vehicles

As the unit economics of driverless cars continue to spiral, the industry has been forced to soul-search its group psychology: move fast and break things because if you ain’t first, you’re last.

But with consumer confidence in the technology (and the people developing it) slipping to historic lows, technologists and carmakers are sobering to the reality that half-baked deployment could kill the nascent industry in utero.

The root: Validating safety and performance in diverse, chaotic and multi-hazard environments has proven more challenging than engineers first believed. Not to mention, costlier.

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The Driverless Commute: Road safety with driver assistance systems – EU Commission supports ISA systems for Europe

By 2022, new cars produced in the EU will only come off the production line after being equipped with a series of intelligent systems to prevent accidents. These include Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) systems, which read speed limits (and/or obtain the relevant information from navigation systems), or so-called Speed Limit (Information) systems, which inform about the maximum permitted speed and, if necessary, limit the speed of the vehicle upwards (at a certain speed, no further increase is permitted).

ISA systems

In principle, one differentiates between intervening systems and (only) assisting systems. What makes ISA systems preferable to pure speed limiters (or speed limit information systems) is the technical detail of adapting the top speed to the local speed limit, by reducing engine power.

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The Driverless Commute: VW and Ford to partner on AVs, latest in long string of tie-ups; 11 companies unveil safety-as-design principles, offering closest thing to industry standard; and Lyft tests its cars on blind passengers

1. Big tabs and hard realities.

Going-it-alone is, like, so 2018.

Volkswagen and Ford, one-time rivals fast sobering to the costs and difficulty of engineering next-generation cars, said Friday they would pool resources in the development of autonomous vehicles. Under the long-rumored deal, VW will invest upwards of $2.6 billion into Ford’s self-driving unit, which was already valued at $7 billion before the tie-up.

The agreement is the latest in a string—so many, in fact, that we’ve lost count—of fiercely competitive carmakers cooperating to develop self-driving technology.

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The Driverless Commute in WardsAuto: Biggest Roadblock to Autonomous Vehicles Isn’t Technology

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards need to be reworked or overhauled if autonomous vehicles are going to reach their full potential. Fortunately, federal regulators are adjusting the rules to accommodate autonomous vehicles within the existing legal framework.

To state the obvious: The future of autonomous vehicle regulation is fluid. At present, the federal government regulates the vehicle itself – its construction, composition and reliability – while state governments regulate driver competence.

However, the increased integration of autonomous-vehicle technology into the driving task itself has made distinguishing the driver from the vehicle difficult. As a result, there is overlap between state and federal law in addition to differences between states, leaving automotive companies without a clear standard.

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The Driverless Commute: Apple stuns with Drive.AI acquisition; did Florida go too far in new AV bill?; Toyota throws in with Baidu’s Apollo project; and Waymo rolls out limited partnership with Lyft in Arizona

1. Assumptions and expectations

Apple, the famously secretive consumer electronics giant, said this week it had acquired self-driving startup Drive.AI, whose human-robot interaction systems and deep-learning approach earned it an outsize reputation in the autonomous constellation.

The days of going-it-alone are behind us.

  • Like many struggling to reconcile real-world deployment challenges (it turns out, engineering self-driving cars is a lot harder than marketers promised) with stratospheric expectations, Drive.AI had come into hard times recently. According to reports, it filed paperwork ahead of the Apple announcement that it intended to dissolve and lay off its entire workforce.
  • Previously, the company had a variety of splashy pilots under its belt, including a recent test in Texas in which human contingency drivers had been removed from some vehicles.
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