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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The Driverless Commute: Trump doesn’t like AVs. He’s not alone. So what does it mean for his administration?

1. Rage against the machine(s)

Ford Argo AI self-driving test car zooming through Washington D.C.

Donald Trump doesn’t use a computer. He doesn’t send or receive text messages or emails, preferring instead to annotate print-outs and have aides send scanned copies. He doesn’t carry a cell phone, but he sometimes consumes media on a tablet, which his handlers know as “the flat one.”

Sure, Trump may be living an analog life, but his administration isn’t.

Indeed, autonomous vehicles—at once the world’s most audacious and least-trusted form of artificial intelligence—have in Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao one of the technology’s most committed cheerleaders.

Just last week, Chao, whose practiced light-touch has allowed the technology to flourish, announced the creation of a new commission within DOT tasked with promoting emerging transportation tech like self-driving cars.

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The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: How programmer bias will be reflected in AI platforms; a case for public investment in AV access; and Waymo, GM & Ford top new AV leaderboard

1. When an engineer’s implicit bias becomes a computer’s

Autonomous Vehicle (AV) LIDAR sensor

Can the machine learning algorithms that underpin the operation of autonomous vehicles perpetuate—or worsen, even—social, structural biases against people of color?

Maybe, according to a new paper (PDF) from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where researchers tested the accuracy of object detection systems (not unlike those used in driverless cars) in positively identifying pedestrians of varying skin colors.

Researchers paid human test subjects to review a collection of 3,500 images of people of varying skin tones and to mark each photograph with “LS” or “DS” to designate light or dark skin of the subject.

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The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: Waymo can understand cops’ hand signals (even if you can’t); Brits come out against loose AV marketing; and Apple discloses tough standards for its AV testers

1. Talk to the hand

Edge cases continue to frustrate makers of self-driving vehicles because coding a database of basic scenarios and responses upon which a car’s software can call is far simpler than engineering artificial intelligence capable of autonomously navigating the unexpected. 

At any moment there are countless complex, and often rare, variables that could confuse a self-driving car. But what about those altogether “ordinary extraordinary” situations, like when a police officer is manually directing traffic at an intersection where the signal has failed? 

This week, the Law Commission for England and Wales, which is advising Parliament on its implementation of a new self-driving regulatory regime, received comments from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommending that carmakers be barred from referring to their products as “autonomous” unless and until they can safely navigate all emergency situations.

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The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: Report cards are in for California AV operators; how local nuance will influence global AV deployment; Ford and VW near AV deal

1. Better beat the mailman home, kids

California transportation authorities released this week the state’s annual disengagements report, a report card of sorts on each company engaged in autonomous testing in the Golden State. 

Under California law, all licensed driverless-car operators are required to self-report to the state Department of Transportation all the instances of human contingency engineers wresting control from self-driving systems. 

While it’s the most intimate look at the pace and progress of the industry available to outsiders, companies have broad latitude in how and what data they report, so the picture is, at best, opaque.

What we know:

  • More miles and fewer hiccups.
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Podcast: Dentons – Autonomous Vehicles and the Driverless Commute by The Tech Blog Writer

Ed. note: This article and podcast was originally posted on Technology Blog Writer and was authored by Neil Hughes.

The Tech Blog Writer Podcast interviewed Eric Tanenblatt to discuss the regulatory, political, and technical developments in the world of automotive autonomy.

Eric is the Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation at Dentons and also leads the firm’s US Public Policy Practice, leveraging his three decades of experience at the very highest levels of the federal and state governments.

The renowned lecturer and political counselor is widely regarded as one of the nation’s preeminent public policy thought leaders, has served in the administrations of three US presidents and as a senior advisor to a US senator and governor, and held a US Senate-confirmable post governing a federal agency.

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China to fast-track law-making in autonomous driving

(Ed. note: This article originally appeared in Compliance Review.)

On January 21st, 2019, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (“CPC”) Central Committee, President of the People’s Republic of China and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered an important speech at the opening ceremony of the Central CPC Institute. In the speech he stressed the importance of improving capabilities of preventing and defusing major risks.

When talking about the important part of national security, like science and technology, Xi pointed out that China should pace up with launching of preemptive alerting and monitoring system for science and technology security.  Especially, he called on fast-tracking the law-making in artificial intelligence, gene editing, medical diagnosis, autonomous driving, unmanned aerial vehicles, service robots and other fields.

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