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: 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: Cities aren’t planning for AV deployment and that’s a problem; NHTSA is weighing rewrites of car and commercial vehicle rules; US lags global rivals over lack of national legislation

1. Urban (not)planning

Cities were once highly compact and walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. But that was before the automobile.

Cities were once highly compact and walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. But that was before the automobile.

Now, the modern American city is nothing if not an ecosystem in service of these two-ton forces of congestion. Add up all the 18-lane highways and surface streets, the sprawling blacktop parking lots and sky-high decks, and you find that more than 60 percent of some cities’ precious downtown real estate has been devoted in some way to cars.

Depending on your preferred expert, autonomous vehicles will either reverse or accelerate the very worst symptoms of car-oriented urban planning: congestion, pollution, sprawl.

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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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