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 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: 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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