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Michigan Might Match Florida’s Driverless Rules

Burney Simpson

The Michigan legislature may soon consider a proposal that would allow the state to match the freewheeling driverless vehicle laws just enacted by Florida.

Michigan now allows the testing of autonomous cars on its roads under certain conditions by certain operators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Michigan’s state Sen. Mike Kowall plans to introduce a bill that would jettison the testing requirement for the operation of driverless vehicles on the state’s roads, according to a report from Crain’s Detroit Business.

In April Florida enacted a law that gives those with a driver’s license the right to operate an autonomous vehicle on its roads without any testing requirement.

The potential Florida/Michigan match-up is the latest in the competition between the states for autonomous driving bragging rights and research dollars. States from Massachusetts to California are opening driverless test tracks or considering loosening rules for firms seeking to develop the technology in their borders.

Kowall, a Republican from White Lake and the Senate’s Majority Floor Leader, has already introduced a bill that would make it a felony to intentionally damage and/or take control of the computer system of a motor vehicle.

And in March the Michigan Senate passed a Kowall resolution calling for the adoption of intelligent transportation system technology throughout Michigan, and urged further testing of autonomous and connected vehicles.

Kowall told Crain’s he plans to introduce a series of bills on driverless vehicles that would discard the rules requiring testing, set insurance liability requirements for connected vehicle equipment manufacturers, and officially name the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Mich., a national center for the study of autonomous and connected vehicle technology.

FLORIDA SUN SHINES ON DRIVERLESS CARS

Florida300aOther states aren’t standing idly by, nor are they waiting for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to release its state policy guidelines on driverless vehicles this summer.

Florida roared ahead when it allowed the operation of autonomous vehicles on its roads by someone with a valid driver’s license (See “Florida Takes Brakes Off Driverless Tech”).

That law removes a previous testing requirement, and it allows the ‘driver’ to operate the vehicle even if she is not physically in the vehicle.

Tennessee last week enacted a bill allowing for the live testing of driverless vehicles that have been certified by the state, as long as a driver is present in the vehicle that has certain safety equipment installed. The law also creates a per-mile tax structure for the vehicles.

Tennessee calls itself the leading state for automotive manufacturing with GM, Nissan, Volkswagen, parts supplier Denso, and many others operating plants there.

Massachusetts is reportedly preparing to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles at a 60-acre site on the decommissioned Devens military base about an hour from Boston (“Driverless Testing in Massachusetts ‘in a Few Weeks’”).

Devens would be convenient for autonomous researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Volpe Transportation Systems Center.

That could compete with Michigan’s 335-acre American Center for Mobility that could become a big brother to Ann Arbor’s 32-acre Mcity autonomous vehicle test site that opened in 2015.

Michigan and Florida, along with California, Nevada and the District of Columbia, have enacted legislation allowing for the operation of driverless vehicles on their roads.

GOLDEN STATE SEES GOLD IN DRIVERLESS TECH

CaliforniaMap1California has approved 12 firms to conduct driverless testing. Many of the global auto OEMs and Tier 1 auto suppliers have operations in Silicon Valley.

The California General Assembly this month moved on several proposals that would reduce the authority of the state Department of Motor Vehicles over autonomous vehicles.

Some legislators have argued the DMV is hindering the development of the technology with unnecessary regulations (See “California Pols to DMV: Relax Draft Driverless Regs”).

Last week a bill that would require the DMV to hold public hearings on the NHTSA guidelines was approved by a 76 to 0 margin. Sponsor Assemblywoman Ling Ling Change has made no secret that she believes the DMV needs to get out of the way.

And the Transportation Committee approved AB 2862 that would allow the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver, steering wheel, and brake and accelerator pedals. Autonomous testing leader Google had a hissy fit when the DMV in December released draft rules requiring such equipment.

The governors of Arizona and Virginia last year allowed for greater testing on their roads, while North Dakota and Utah have called for further research on autonomous vehicles.

Photos by Michigan Municipal League, 2011; California_map by Julie Jordan Scott, 2010; Florida February 2008 by Image Editor.

State Driverless Policy Workshop This May

Burney Simpson

A one-day workshop on state policy towards automated vehicles will be held May 18 at the University of Maryland in College Park near Washington, D.C.

The workshop will identify the major issues the states will need to address as they write laws on “advanced automated vehicles (sometimes called autonomous, self-driving, or driverless vehicles).”

The National Transportation Center is sponsoring “Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation: A State Perspective Workshop” at the school. The event runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The other sponsors are the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The graphic for this article is from the National Conference of State Legislators website that tracks autonomous/self-driving vehicles legislation. It is updated as of April 8. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is scheduled to release policy guidelines for the states this summer.

FRAMING THE ISSUES

The Maryland workshop features a number of nationally-known experts on driverless vehicles.

Bryant Walker Smith, developer of the Center for Internet and Society website that tracks state legislative activity on driverless technology, will be on the opening panel framing the issues. Smith will be joined by Robert Peterson, co-author of A Look at the Legal Framework for Driverless Vehicles (See “Send Lawyers, Guns and Driverless Vehicles”), and Frank Douma, who will discuss Minnesota’s initiative on mobility and people with disabilities.

A second panel with look at major policy influences. Mike Scrudato, senior vice president with Munich Reinsurance, will discuss insurance, while Rand Corp.’s James M. Anderson will consider a single federal policy vs. a 50 state approach.

A third panel offers state legislators active in autonomous vehicle legislation. State Sen. Mark Green of Tennessee (See “Tennessee Senate Scheduled to Vote on Proposed Driverless Law SB 1561 This Week”), and Del. Glenn Davis of Virginia will discuss their recent proposals (See “Careful Steps on Driverless Laws for Tennessee, Virginia”).

There will also be discussion on the opportunities for merging energy and transportation issues. The seminar will conclude with remarks from Alain Kornhauser, director of Princeton University’s Transportation Research Program.

The event is in the Howard Frank Auditorium/Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

Send Lawyers, Guns and Driverless Tech

Burney Simpson

Policy makers, regulators and legal departments will find the new “A Look at the Legal Environment for Driverless Vehicles” a valuable introduction and overview of major issues facing the industry.

The free report from the Transportation Research Board uses the word driverless as an umbrella term covering autonomous, automated, connected, and driverless vehicles.

Topics addressed include civil liability, criminal liability, insurance, and privacy and security.

There are also sections on local, state and federal legislation, and administrative regulation. A chapter on sustainability addresses land use, infrastructure, and the environment.

Another section provides historic context by reviewing how regulators once looked at such revolutionary transportation technology as railroads, steamboats and conventional automobiles.

The prepublication version is available as a free PDF.

The authors are Dorothy J. Glancy, Robert W. Peterson, and Kyle F. Graham from the Santa Clara University School of Law in Santa Clara, Calif. Glancy and Peterson are full professors, while Graham is a teacher there who earned some attention last year when he announced he would not seek tenure at the school.

The introduction sums up the report:

 “This report discusses the legal environment that will apply to driverless vehicles. The sections that follow consider how driverless vehicles may fit within or challenge existing rules, and, as relevant and appropriate, suggests how these rules could be modified to better serve the public interest. As a forward looking analysis, this discussion is necessarily speculative, and relies on numerous assumptions regarding matters including how driverless vehicles will operate and how long it will take for them to come into common use. Nevertheless, even at this early juncture, policymakers should benefit from an assessment of how driverless vehicles mesh with the prevailing legal order.” 

The current version is subject to revision. Peterson wrote in an email this month that a section on liability could see some changes to reflect recent announcements by three auto OEMs that they would accept responsibility for accidents when their vehicle is operated in autonomous mode.

Photo by Cal Injury Lawyer, 2015.

D20 Stock Index week ending November 27 2015

VW’s Dead Cat Bounce Lifts D20 Index

Driverless Transportation

With 13 gainers, six losers, and NVIDIA (NVDA) unchanged, the Driverless Transportation Stock Index (D20) gained 0.6 percent last week to close at 162.24. In a relatively quiet week for the indexes, the D20 edged out the Dow Jones Industrials decline of 0.1 percent and the virtually unchanged S&P 500.

Leading the D20 Index this week, Volkswagen (VLKPY), in a typical ‘dead cat bounce’, gained a whopping 17.2 percent to end at $26.36. There was little news other than Volkswagen’s refusal to compensate European vehicle owners for the rigged emissions tests, so the only explanation for the price jump is that short investors bought stock to cover their bets. Volkswagen has lost 31 percent of its value since early September.

The biggest loser for the D20 this week was the Chinese electric car and battery maker BYD (BYDDY), shedding 13 percent of its value and closing at $10.56. BYD’s share price continues its rollercoaster ride, plummeting to a low of $7.70 and rising to a high of $12.53 in the last 12 weeks, a range of almost 63 percent.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Record High for D20 Index

Driverless Transportation

With 19 gainers and only one loser, the Driverless Transportation Index (D20) displayed impressive strength last week by jumping 4.4 percent to an all time high of 161.34. The D20 outperformed the Dow which gained 3.4 percent to close the week at 17823.81 and the S&P 500 which, in its best week of 2015, added 3.3 percent to finish at 2089.17.

The lone smudge on an almost perfect week was Volvo AB (VOLVY), the Swedish truck manufacturer, as it announced it was idling its US plant for two-and-a-half weeks in December due to excessive inventory and softening demand. Volvo’s ADR stock price lost 1.1 percent of its market capitalization and ended the week at $10.18

The D20 has breached the 160 mark three separate times in the last five weeks and has added 14 percent to its value in the last eight weeks. Since its inception at 139.7 on August 1, 2014, the D20 has ranged from 130.01 (down 6.9 percent) on October 17, 2014 to last Friday’s close of 161.34 (up 15.5 percent).  Linear regression (displayed as the dotted black line in the graphic here) places the D20’s growth at 13.4 points per year, or 9.6 percent.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

TomTom is D20’s Lone Star

Driverless Transportation

Last week, the Driverless Transportation Index (D20) followed the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrials down dramatically as all three indexes lost more than 3 percent of their value. The D20 Index lost 3.9 percent, finishing the week at 154.59 while the Dow dropped 3.7 percent and the S&P 500 discarded 3.6 percent of its value.

Trading in the D20 last week was almost unanimous with 19 losers and a sole gainer, TomTom (TOM2), the high-tech mapmaker. TomTom jumped €0.82, or 8 percent, to finish at €11.03.  TomTom’s stock price hit a six-year high as Uber agreed to use its digital maps and traffic data for more than 300 cities around the world. As the last independent supplier of detailed mapping information, rumors continue to swirl around TomTom as an acquisition target. Since its inclusion in the D20 on August 28, TomTom’s stock price is up 23 percent.

The rest of the D20 was not as promising as a trio of D20 stocks lost more than 10 percent of their value. Blackberry (BBRY) gave up gains recorded the previous week, losing 10.1 percent to finish the week at $7.21. Tesla (TSLA), a top gainer the previous week, gave up that success and finished at $207.19, down 10.8 percent. Magna International (MGA) fell 10.1 percent to $43.40 for its third consecutive weekly loss.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Driverless Index Crawls Over 160

Driverless Transportation

The Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index crawled above 160 for the second time in its history, ending the week up 1.1 percent at 160.83. Gainers outpaced losers 13 to seven as the D20 couldn’t keep up with the 1.4 percent rise in the Dow Jones Industrials which ended the week at 17910.33. The D20 slightly outperformed the S&P 500 and its rise of nearly 1 percent to finish at 2099.2.

Tesla (TSLA) was the D20 leader, increasing its stock price 12.3 percent to close the week at $232.36. Tesla has been having trouble meeting the demand for its Model S but its stock soared after its third quarter report revealed that it broke quarterly production records. NVIDIA (NVDA) was a D20 bright spot as well. It finished up 11.2 percent at $31.55 as it announced surprisingly good third quarter results.

Volkswagen’s (VLKPY) steep descent continued, dropping 12.6 percent to finish the week at $21.09 as its emissions scandal continues to deepen. Models from Audi and Porsche, both subsidiaries of Volkswagen, have now been implicated as well. It has lost 45 percent of its market cap since mid September.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Automated Cars are the New Space Race

Burney Simpson

The effort to bring automated and connected vehicles to widespread public use is like the race to the Moon of the 1960s. The technology is revolutionary, the scientists/researchers involved are brilliant, and it’s an exciting challenge for the nation.

So where do we stand? After attending the Connected and Automated Vehicles: 9th University Transportation Center Conference last week in Washington, D.C., I’d say we’re still pretty far from Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Hell, we’re closer to the ‘vomit comet’ where astronauts underwent simulated weightlessness exercises in dive-bombing jets. That said, the action around autonomous is moving fast.

The conference is designed to consider whether connected and automated vehicles (CAV) “can improve safety, reduce harmful emissions, and improve efficiency and reliability,” wrote Melissa Tooley, the conference chair and Center Director of the University Transportation Center for Mobility at the Texas Transportation Institute.

The answer was yes from the attendees, which included reps from leading technology providers, university research centers, state and federal regulators, insurance companies, new mobility houses, and others.

Here are some of the highlights:

FUEL SAVINGS

Truck platooning, where two or more trucks travel in tandem with one driver controlling the group, have proven they can reduce fuel use, said Kevin P. Dopart of the U.S. DOT.

In this Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications exercise, the lead vehicle ContinentalARCreator1saved 4 to 5 percent on fuel costs, while a trailing vehicle saved 8 percent, said Dopart, program manager, ITS Vehicle Safety and Automation Program. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed even better savings.

Dopart suggested that fuel use could be further reduced if a communication system allowed trucks from several freight operators, even competitors, to team up as they meet on a stretch of highway.

“Connecting is critical to reaching the full benefits” of autonomous technology, including reducing emissions and energy use, said Dopart.

CONSUMER ACCEPTANCE

Justin Holmes of Zipcar discussed the success of the car sharing firm which grew from a single station in Cambridge, Mass., to stations in 500 cities and towns serving 1 million members.

Zipcars’ success is considered a sign that Millennials prefer ‘access over ownership’ when it comes to cars, and may be open to sharing driverless cars for their transportation needs.

Holmes noted that Zipcar has found that consumers aged 50+ that live in cities have similar attitudes to transportation as Millennials, suggesting that the market for driverless cars goes way beyond the beard and tattoo crowd.

MOBILITY/PUBLIC TRANS

The analogy to the Space Race comes from Stanley E. Young, advanced transportation and urban scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Young updated the conference on the CityMobil2 tests that have gone on this year in about half dozen European cities of various sizes.

driverless-237The vehicle is “a cross between a golf cart and an ice cream truck” and has been tested on a campus, a resort town, and a city center, and offered such applications as ‘last mile’, shopping, tourist, and urban transportation, said Young. The tests will help to create a legal framework for these systems, and a look at the social acceptance of driverless transportation, he said.

Young said similar tests include Milton Keynes in the U.K., the upcoming EasyMile in California, and various activities in Japan leading up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Going forward, operators are considering running these vehicles in the most congested part of a city that will be designated the Urban Mobility District, and determining what kind of entity will own the program.

MAPPING/DATA

Jane Macfarlane, head of research at HERE showed off some of the maps her firm has been building from the myriad of data it collects. One challenge for mapping firms is big data reduction, or editing the huge amounts of data they can collect today, she said.

“The data must be good. I get data from many different places. I don’t control where it comes from,” said Macfarlane.

The second issue is manipulating the data so the vehicle owner/driver receives “hyper-local” information, or something that is actionable.

INSURANCE/REGS

Nevada DMV’s Jude Hurin said there’s a need for federal oversight of driverless vehicles because the technology is revolutionary and changes vehicles and driving (See “Driverless Cars Will Need Federal Regs: DMV, Insurance Execs,” November 6).

“Driver training will become very important. Each auto OEM may come out with its own version of an autonomous vehicle,” said Hurin, who is vice chairman of the AAMVA Autonomous Vehicles Best Practices Group.

One approach may be to give an organization like NHTSA the authority to set minimums on the technology, on driver training, on insurance, and other driving basics that states now oversee, said Hurin. The states could then work with those minimums to create their own rules.

“We can’t create minimums after the technology goes live,” he said.

Allstate’s Edward Collins said consumers will have to learn that driverless technology doesn’t mean they just push a button and the car drives itself.

“We will have to teach drivers how to behave in these new vehicles,” said Collins. “Someone must be able to take over. This is like planes today” where much of the pilot’s work is done via computer.

Allstate believes that CAV technology and the sharing economy could lower DOTstop1car ownership as much as 50 percent. In response, insurers may cover the driver and her lifetime driving record, in contrast to covering the driver and her car, said Collins, Allstate’s vice president and assistant general counsel.

There may be fewer accidents in the driverless world but their severity may increase, in part because the equipment is getting so complex and expensive, said Collins. For instance, Mercedes’ high-tech windshields now can cost as much as $1,500 and a Lexus bumper $1,200.

Bottom line, the need for CAV technology keeps growing, with a 14 percent rise in traffic deaths and a 30 percent increase in serious injuries in the first six months of the year. While cars are safer, drivers are getting worse due to an epidemic of distracted driving, said Collins.

All in all the Connected and Automated Vehicles conference served as a roundup of work going in the driverless industry, bringing together some of the top researchers in the field.

 

Driverless Cars Will Need Federal Regs: DMV, Insurance Execs

Burney Simpson

Regulations for the operation of automated vehicles should be developed soon and be done at the national level, according to leaders from Allstate Insurance and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

That’s because driverless technology changes the driving experience and will impact licensing, insurance, traffic laws, and crash investigations, said Jude Hurin, a DMV services manager III with the Nevada DMV.

Trying to regulate this groundbreaking change with a patchwork state-by-state approach will be inefficient and confusing, warned Hurin, who is helping to prepare new guidelines for driverless vehicles as vice chair of the AAMVA Autonomous Vehicles Best Practices Working Group.

“We need a reciprocal national agreement, and to create minimum regulations” nationwide for driverless vehicles, said Hurin. “Right now (driverless regulations) are at the state level.”

Edward Collins, Allstate’s vice president and assistant general counsel, concurs that automated vehicles represent a “revolution in auto technology” that presents an “opportunity to modernize auto insurance.”

ACCEPTING LIABILITY

An example of this was Volvo’s recent announcement that it would accept liability for any crash that occurs when its car is operating in autonomous mode, said Collins.

“Volvo acknowledged the product liability, and significantly placed it on the (auto) OEMs, and possibly the (auto parts) manufacturers,” said Collins.

DOTstop1Volvo officially launched its plan in October as part of a campaign to prod U.S. lawmakers to develop regulatory requirements for autonomous vehicles.

The Volvo plan indicates that some auto OEMs may prefer automated vehicle/connected vehicle regulations at a national level in the U.S., and at a cross-border level in Europe, Hurin said.

Hurin and Collins spoke this week at the Transportation Research Board 9th University Transportation Center Spotlight Conference, Automated and Connected Vehicles, in Washington, D.C.

The conference gathered leading university researchers, engineers, state and federal transportation officials, urban planners, technology providers and others — all active in driverless transportation.

Hurin updated attendees on the best practices working group formed by the AAMVA, or American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, with funding by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

REGULATORY CONCERNS

The working group was formed in February and includes 16 members from the U.S. and two from Canada. Plans call for spending two years researching autonomous vehicles and defining “the potential regulatory concerns the technology will create.”

Subgroups will develop guidelines for drivers’ licenses and exams, requirements for testing and for insurance, and traffic laws and crash investigations.

The guidelines are not mandates, said Hurin. Instead they can help states as they create regulations, and provide NHTSA with an understanding of what the states face as they implement the regulations.

Collins welcomed the idea of a national approach to automated and connected vehicles. Current auto insurance rules were formed in the 1940s and regulation of the business is done at the state level.

“We deal with all 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Striving for) uniformity and consistency of rules makes sense across the country,” said Collins. “It’s good to hear it is being discussed.”

Graphics by US DOT.

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