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News Roundup: Michigan Senate Passes Law Allowing Driverless Cars to Operate Without Humans, French City Debuts World’s First Driverless Bus Service, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of recent headlines in the driverless and connected-car industries.

Michigan State Senate Unanimously Passes Bill That Would No Longer Require a Human to Be in A Driverless Car

Driverless cars are moving full speed ahead in Michigan, where the state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would no longer require a human to be in an autonomous car being tested on public roads. Backers touted the bill as “necessary” to keep Michigan ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reportedly supports the bill as well, which is on track to have full legislative approval by the end of the year. Other provisions in the bill include: allowing for public operation of driverless vehicles when they hit the consumer market; easing the “platooning” of autonomous commercial trucks traveling closely together at electronically coordinated speeds; help creating a facility to test autonomous and wirelessly connected cars at highway speeds at the site of a defunct General Motors plant; and allowing auto manufacturers to run networks of on-demand self-driving vehicles. Read more from the Associated Press and CBS Detroit.

 

Lyon, France Debuts World’s First Public Driverless Bus With Daily Service

Lyon, France launched this past weekend what is being called the world’s first driverless bus in its downtown Confluence area. The bus, which uses LiDAR radar technology and motion sensors to help it avoid accidents, can seat up to 15 passengers, and is now serving rides to the public, daily. Two shuttles run a 10-minute route with five stops. The shuttle was designed by French company Navya, and the design is set to undergo trials in Dubai soon as well. Read more about the new Navya shuttle buses from Travel+Leisure Magazine.

 

Volvo Teams Up With Autoliv to Develop Autonomous Car Software

Volvo Car Group and Autoliv, an automotive safety group, announced this week that they are forming a jointly-owned company to develop advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving systems. Volvo will bring to the table its know-how of decision-making software that determines how an autonomous car will react in different situations. Autoliv will bring expertise in sensor technology and computer vision systems. The two companies say they are committed to creating “a completely open, transparent environment for collaboration.” In a news conference, representatives said the new company, which has yet to be named, will initially have around 200 employees, and could grow to around 600 within two years. The company is set to begin work as early as next year. Read more about the collaboration from Associated Press and Crain’s Detroit Business.

Driverless Vehicles: The Leading Nations for Testing Without a Human Driver

Anurag Maheshwary

Anurag Maheshwary is an attorney at a federal government agency. All viewpoints here are those of Mr. Maheshwary.

The race to develop the first driverless vehicles (i.e., NHTSA Level 4 and SAE International Standard J3016 Level 5) has spurred a fierce competition, not just among industry stakeholders, but also among jurisdictions vying furiously to establish themselves as the premier global test-bed for such technology. Although many jurisdictions have adopted a formal framework to permit testing driverless vehicles when a human driver is present, few, if any, have addressed testing without human driver presence. Over the past year, however, a frenzy of developments has occurred in jurisdictions worldwide that may soon enable driverless vehicles to be tested without human drivers. This survey highlights some recent developments in jurisdictions that have adopted a formal framework (comprising regulatory, legislative, and/or quasi-regulatory actions) that addresses public road testing or mass deployment of driverless vehicles without human presence. The survey compares and contrasts differing approaches among jurisdictions and ranks them according to their “testing friendliness” from the perspective of industry stakeholders. Finally, the survey concludes that although some U.S. states were the early global leaders, that lead is in danger of being eclipsed by other jurisdictions that are quickly catching up.

I. New Zealand: The World’s Most Testing-Friendly Jurisdiction — For Now

In what seems to be a well-kept secret, New Zealand — yes, New Zealand — appears to be the world’s most testing friendly jurisdiction. In February 2016, the New Zealand Ministry of Transport issued guidelines entitled, “Testing Autonomous Vehicles in New Zealand” that set forth prerequisites for stakeholders seeking to test driverless vehicles.[1] Among them are liability and indemnity insurance, submission of a “safety management plan” setting forth a description of the technologies being tested, a summary of prior private testing thereof, a log of incidents that occurred during testing, and compliance with (or application for exemption from) applicable regulations.[2] Upon satisfaction of these conditions, New Zealand will permit testing on any public roads without restriction. In contrast to other jurisdictions that have adopted traditional rulemaking or legislative tools to enable testing (see below), New Zealand has adopted a purely “quasi-regulatory” approach (e.g., government-issued guidelines, policy statements, and exemptions from vehicle standards).

nz2While New Zealand’s approach is unique, what truly distinguishes the country is its express proclamation that existing laws do not require a human driver to be present in the vehicle: “A particular advantage of testing autonomous vehicles in New Zealand is that our legislation does not explicitly require a vehicle to have a driver present . . . . So long as any testing is carried out safely, a truly driverless vehicle may be tested on public roads today.”[3] Granted, the guidelines are silent as to whether existing laws implicitly require human driver presence. However, the guidelines’ plain language and multiple references to testing without human driver presence show a clear intent to allow such testing.[4] Moreover, the guidelines encourage stakeholders to seek exemptions from provisions in vehicle standards “where requirements are clearly unreasonable or inappropriate,” suggesting a willingness to remove implicit barriers to testing driverless vehicles.[5] With respect to deployment, however, New Zealand has not proposed any enabling initiatives, opting instead to monitor international developments and respond when appropriate.[6]

New Zealand’s newly issued testing guidelines specifically encourage testing of driverless vehicles without human driver presence. Although there is an open question as to whether implicit regulatory barriers exist, New Zealand’s willingness to entertain exemptions suggests an openness to address that issue quickly. Arguably, for those seeking to test a truly driverless vehicle today, New Zealand is the most testing-friendly venue in which to do so.

II. U.K.: Runner-Up

After New Zealand, the U.K. appears to be the world’s second most testing-friendly venue. The U.K. has been aggressively developing a quasi-regulatory approach to facilitate testing of autonomous vehicles, publicly declaring its goal of becoming the global leader in this area. Since 2015, the U.K. has issued several policy guidance documents to achieve this goal. In February 2015, the U.K. Department for Transport issued a report entitled, “The Pathway to Driverless Cars: A Detailed Review of Regulations for Automated Vehicle Technologies.”[7] This report summarized findings of an audit of existing U.K. motor vehicle regulations, which was tasked with identifying regulations that were incompatible with the testing of autonomous vehicles. The audit report concluded that existing regulations permit such testing on public roads, provided that a human driver is present in the vehicle.[8] Importantly, no certifications, permits, or posting of bonds are required to commence testing, which are significant burdens imposed by many other jurisdictions. Finally, the U.K. committed to issuing detailed testing guidelines in collaboration with stakeholders. Notably, the U.K. touted its “light touch/non-regulatory approach” as “quicker to establish, more flexible and less onerous for those wishing to engage in testing than the regulatory approach being followed in other countries, notably in the U.S.”[9]

In July 2015, the U.K. issued its testing guidelines in a report entitled, “The Pathway to Driverless Cars: Code of Practice for Testing.”[10] Although non-statutory, the U.K. clearly intended the testing guidelines to be affirmative proscriptions, warning that non-compliance would constitute negligence.[11] The guidelines established detailed requirements for driver licensing and training, documentation of prior in-house testing on closed roads, data recording devices, data privacy and cybersecurity protections, among other things. But most critically, the guidelines appear to soften — or depart completely from — the audit report’s earlier requirement of human presence. The guidelines provide that either a human driver or a “test operator . . . who oversees testing . . . without necessarily being seated in the vehicle” shall supervise testing and be able to override autonomous mode at any time and take control of the vehicle.[12] This conflicts directly with the audit report, which provides that “[r]eal-world testing . . . is possible . . . providing a test driver is present and takes responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle.”[13] It is unclear how to resolve this conflict. Still, given that the audit report predates and defers to the guidelines for establishing testing requirements, driverless vehicles without a human driver present arguably could be tested so long as a remotely located human supervisor is capable of taking control of the vehicle. As with New Zealand, stakeholders should consider seeking interpretations or exemptions to resolve this ambiguity.

In contrast to its quasi-regulatory approach to enable testing driverless vehicles without human driver presence, the U.K. recognizes that deployment would require regulatory and legislative actions, and the country has established a roadmap for doing so. By summer 2017, the U.K. aims to identify necessary regulatory reforms, and by the end of 2018, it would complete an assessment concerning the need for enabling legislation.[14] Overall, the U.K.’s testing guidelines raise the tantalizing prospect of testing driverless vehicles without human driver presence, pending resolution of conflicting guidance in the audit report. A resolution endorsing the view set forth in the guidelines could establish the U.K. as a leading testing-friendly jurisdiction in the near term, as well as a leading venue for deployment in the longer term.

III.      U.S.: Federal Leadership vs. State Patchwork Quilt 

At the state level, the U.S. was the pioneer in evangelizing autonomous vehicle testing. In 2011, Nevada became the world’s first jurisdiction to adopt a formal regulatory framework permitting testing on public roads. As of this writing, three states (Florida, California, and Michigan) and the District of Columbia have adopted formal frameworks explicitly permitting such testing, and many others are currently considering regulation and/or legislation. Collectively, roughly two dozen states have proposed more than fifty bills varying widely, resulting in inconsistency and confusion.[15] For example, Michigan restricts testing to OEMs, California requires the posting of a $5 million bond, and Nevada requires the presence of two licensed individuals in the vehicle, storage of pre-collision sensor data, special license plates, and geographic restrictions on testing.[16] This fractured approach has created a regulatory “patchwork quilt” that impedes testing, and it is largely due to an absence of comprehensive federal guidance. However, recent NHTSA announcements and actions aim to resolve this regulatory morass and create a uniform national policy. A summary follows.

A. Federal: A New, Uniform Approach May Soon Provide Leadership

In January 2016, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled the Department’s new strategy for autonomous (i.e., NHTSA Level ≤ 3 and SAE J3016 Level ≤ 4) and driverless vehicles, comprising various announcements and milestones that NHTSA committed to meeting this year. Among them, first, by July, NHTSA would propose guidelines regarding the deployment of driverless vehicles, along with a common understanding of requisite performance criteria and test procedures needed to assess them. Second, by July the agency would release a model state policy concerning both testing and deployment of autonomous and driverless vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy. Third, NHTSA acknowledged that its existing legal authority is likely insufficient to support mass deployment of autonomous vehicles, “including those designed without a human driver in mind,” and stated that it would consider seeking additional authority via legislation or initiating rulemaking. Finally, Secretary Foxx encouraged stakeholders to seek FMVSS interpretations or exemptions, where appropriate, to facilitate testing or deployment of driverless vehicles — including those without human driver presence.[17] With these announcements, the U.S. has committed to a comprehensive framework to accelerate the advent of truly driverless vehicles.

Next, in a February 2016 letter, NHTSA responded to a rule interpretation request from Google concerning the definition of the term “driver” for purposes of compliance with certain FMVSS provisions.[18] In a major policy shift that may have a significant impact on enabling driverless vehicles, NHTSA interpreted “driver” broadly to include an artificial-intelligence self-driving system, which opened the door to legal recognition of truly driverless vehicles for the first time.[19] However, the agency cautioned that until it develops performance criteria and test procedures for evaluating whether a self-driving system meets various FMVSS provisions, it could not categorically interpret self-driving systems as compliant with existing regulations.[20] The agency allowed that some FMVSS provisions could be addressed in the short term via requests for interpretations and petitions for exemptions, but cautioned that other provisions, such as requirements for manual controls, would require a traditional regulatory solution.[21]

In March 2016, the DOT issued a preliminary report entitled, “Review of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for Automated Vehicles,” which summarized results of an audit of existing FMVSS provisions.[22] One purpose of the audit was to identify standards that include references, both implicit and explicit, to a human driver that could impede deployment of driverless vehicles.[23] The audit report painstakingly examined each of the 73 standards specified in the FMVSS and identified specific provisions that could be problematic. Among other things, the audit found that although few existing regulations would hinder deployment of autonomous vehicles designed for human driver presence, vehicles without human drivers or manual controls would indeed conflict with FMVSS provisions or policy objectives.[24] However, the DOT noted that its analysis predated NHTSA’s interpretation of the definition of “driver” and therefore did not reflect this development.[25]

Together, imminent federal guidance documents, results of the regulatory audit, and NHTSA’s innovative interpretation of “driver” show leadership that may establish the U.S. as among the world’s preeminent venues for both testing and deployment of truly driverless vehicles. In the near term, NHTSA’s quasi-regulatory approach should help harmonize conflicting state approaches, resulting in a consistent and uniform national policy. Longer term, contemplated legislative and rulemaking efforts should facilitate deployment.

B. States

  1.    Florida: Soon to Become the Leader?

In 2012, Florida became the second state (after Nevada) to permit operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. However, it placed onerous restrictions on those wishing to do so, including: restricting operation to testing only, restricting testing to either OEMs or educational institutions, requiring the presence of a human driver, and requiring either proof of insurance or a bond in the amount of $5 million.[26]

Florida_topographic_map-en1In April 2016, however, Florida enacted H.B. 2027, which was a sweeping expansion of the permissible uses of autonomous vehicles on public roads.[27] Among other things, the legislation jettisoned all of the foregoing limitations — including the requirement of human presence. Theoretically, removal of this limitation would enable driverless vehicles without human driver presence to be tested or deployed on Florida roads. It remains to be seen, however, whether implicit Florida or federal regulations would thwart such testing or deployment. Still, if stakeholders are able to obtain favorable regulatory interpretations or exemptions, Florida may have catapulted itself to the status of being among the world’s most testing-friendly venues. The legislation takes effect on July 1.

  1. California: Soon to Become the Laggard?

California is one of the world’s only jurisdictions to develop regulations for the deployment of autonomous vehicles. In December 2015, California released draft rules that address only the transition from testing to deployment, but not full deployment.[28] The rules would require, among other things, manual controls, human driver presence, new safety and performance requirements, certifications from third-party testing organizations, regular submission of usage reports, and restriction of distribution to leases, not sales.[29] Unsurprisingly, many stakeholders have criticized the proposed rules harshly as unnecessarily restrictive and likely to stifle development of autonomous technologies. In particular, critics have condemned the requirements for human drivers and manual controls, contending that if finalized, such restrictions would deter firms from deploying — or even testing — driverless vehicles in California.

Echoing these concerns, in February 2016, legislators introduced bill A.B. 2866 in the California State Assembly, which amounts to a full frontal assault on many of these restrictions in the draft regulations.[30] Among other things, the bill would overturn the proposed requirements for human presence and manual controls, and it directs California, by July 2018, to adopt regulations expressly permitting the testing and deployment of driverless vehicles without human drivers or manual controls. The bill would also expressly permit public road testing and deployment of driverless vehicles upon adoption of the new regulations.[31] The bill is currently in the embryonic stages of the legislative process. Until it is enacted, however, California’s strict regulatory approach has brought with it the dubious distinction of being the least hospitable jurisdiction in this survey in which to test truly driverless vehicles.

IV. Australia: The Most Comprehensive Approach Yet

In November 2015, Australia launched a comprehensive plan to enable testing and deployment of autonomous and driverless vehicles. The plan sets forth specific milestones, including auditing all relevant federal and state laws and regulations to identify potential barriers to testing and deployment, recommending remedial actions, and commencing some preliminary reforms. Australia has set an aggressive timeline to achieve these milestones — just over one year.[32]

Reliefmap_of_Australia1The first fruit of this effort was borne in February 2016, when Australia’s National Transport Commission (“NTC”) issued an initial report entitled, “Regulatory Barriers to More Automated Road and Rail Vehicles Issues Paper.”[33] The report provided an overview of Australia’s existing regulatory landscape and identified key issues that could impede testing and deployment of autonomous and driverless vehicles. The report concluded that although most aspects of its existing regulatory framework are unlikely to impede driverless vehicles, still other potential barriers exist. In particular, the NTC noted that “the most significant barrier[s]” were some federal and state laws, as well as vehicle safety and performance standards, that implicitly require human driver presence.[34] The report identified several additional categories of potential barriers, including: ambiguity in the definition of “control” concerning who or what is in “control” of an autonomous vehicle, liability issues, and data privacy and access thereto.[35] The NTC painstakingly examined the proper role of government in removing the foregoing barriers, and considered whether the optimum approach should involve rulemaking, legislation, or a quasi-regulatory approach. Ultimately, the NTC cautioned against a rush to rulemaking or legislation at this time, fearing that such processes could chill innovation in this rapidly evolving technological area, devolving into a U.S.-style regulatory patchwork quilt.[36]

In May 2016, the NTC issued a follow-up report entitled, “Regulatory Options for Automated Vehicles.”[37] Analogous to audits conducted by the U.K. and U.S., Australia audited relevant laws and regulations and identified specific provisions — 716 in total — that were potential barriers to testing and deployment.[38] It also proposed recommendations to address these issues, which are subject to revision based on upcoming public comments. Importantly, these reforms would be coordinated at the federal and state levels, in contrast to the current approach in the U.S. The remedies differ in purpose and scope and would phase-in over five years. Phase 1, which would commence as soon as possible, would facilitate testing of driverless vehicles and deployment of autonomous vehicles by introducing national guidelines to support a uniform approach to testing and state-based exemptions to existing standards, as well as clarifying the meaning of “control.” Phase 2, which would commence within two years, would enable deployment of driverless vehicles via new legislation expanding the definition of “driver” to include autonomous driving systems, providing a “safety assurance framework” for autonomous vehicles, among other things. Finally, Phase 3, which would commence within three to five years, would initiate rulemaking to remove implicit references in vehicle standards to human drivers and manual controls, and issue new standards governing cybersecurity, data privacy, and other issues.[39] The NTC will make final recommendations to federal and state transportation ministers in November 2016, and in December 2016, the agency will issue a final report summarizing the direction chosen by the ministers.[40]

Australia has embarked on an ambitious journey that may establish it as a preeminent jurisdiction in which to both test and deploy truly driverless vehicles. Under its proposed regulatory reforms, public road testing of vehicles without human drivers could commence almost immediately, and full deployment may be possible in 2020. Like the U.S., Australia has embraced the idea that the term “driver” in vehicle standards should not be narrowly confined to humans, and instead should be broadened to include autonomous systems — a critical recognition made by no other major jurisdictions. However, unlike efforts in the U.S., Australia’s blueprint proposes comprehensive, coordinated reforms at the state and federal levels, which should provide greater uniformity and clarity. Coupled with Australia’s phased approach to reforms — ranging from a quasi-regulatory approach in the short term, to legislative amendments in the medium term, to initiating rulemaking in the long term — Australia’s overall framework is an innovative solution that should provide clarity and predictability to industry stakeholders seeking to test or deploy truly driverless vehicles.

V. Canada: Last Among the G7

Among G7 nations, Canada is farthest behind in developing a formal regulatory framework for testing autonomous vehicles and has no plans specific to driverless vehicles.[41]  (Canada is included in this survey due solely to its geographic and economic proximity to the U.S.)  However, recent developments show that Canada is keen to shed that status.  In January 2016, Ontario established a pilot testing program, making it the first province to enable public road testing of autonomous vehicles.[42]  Under the 10-year pilot, a human driver must be present in the vehicle, and a certification of insurance of $5 million is required; no special permits, license plates, identifiers, or other onerous conditions are imposed.[43]  Notably, the application process is highly streamlined, consisting of an online, single-page form that does not require submission of any supporting documentation.[44]  Applicants are simply required to certify, by clicking a checkbox on the form, that they have reviewed the requirements set out in applicable regulations.[45]  This simplified online form is a unique and innovative feature that should facilitate participation in testing.  Although Canada has not yet adopted a formal framework specific to driverless vehicles, Ontario’s actions have already catapulted itself ahead of many U.S. states with respect to testing autonomous vehicles and may hasten development of a federal approach for testing truly driverless vehicles.

VI. Conclusion

An analysis of recent international developments to facilitate testing driverless vehicles without human driver presence shows a continuum of widely varying regulatory approaches. At opposite ends of the spectrum are New Zealand, with its freewheeling, quasi-regulatory approach, and California, with its rigid, traditional rulemaking approach. Occupying the white space in the middle are the U.K., U.S. (federal), and Australia, which are following hybrid frameworks, consisting of a quasi-regulatory approach in the short term, with legislation and rulemaking contemplated in the longer term.

For those seeking to test a truly driverless vehicle today, New Zealand (and perhaps Florida beginning in July) is the most testing-friendly venue in which to do so, although there remains an open question concerning the existence of potential implicit regulatory barriers. The U.K. appears to be the runner-up, as it ostensibly permits testing by a remotely located driver, but a conflict in the relevant guidance documents needs resolution. In the U.S., a regulatory patchwork quilt at the state level, together with recent federal pronouncements, create much uncertainty. However, if imminent federal guidance resolves the regulatory quagmire, the U.S. may be poised to lead. Finally, the Land Down Under is perhaps the most interesting. Although Australia’s legal landscape bans testing vehicles without human driver presence, its proposed reforms, which comprise a comprehensive, coordinated effort at the federal and state levels, are broader and deeper in scope than those of the U.S. and ultimately may yield the most promising outcome for stakeholders seeking to test truly driverless vehicles. Overall, although much uncertainty persists from developments over the previous twelve months, the next twelve are certain to be even more momentous.

Anurag Maheshwary is an attorney at a federal government agency.  Previously, he was an associate at White & Case LLP, and a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  Prior to his legal career, Anurag was an automotive engineer at Freightliner Corp.  Anurag holds a J.D. from Boston University School of Law, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University.  He can be contacted at AnuragMaheshwary.Esq@gmail.com.

This article first appeared in the American Bar Association’s Transportation Quarterly.

Photo – Supreme Court by Brittany Hogan, 2005.

Relief map of Australia by Hans Braxmeier, 2008.

Footnotes

[1] N.Z. Ministry of Transp., Testing Autonomous Vehicles in New Zealand (Feb. 2016), http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/technology/specific-transport-technologies/road-vehicle/autonomous-vehicles/testing-autonomous-vehicles-in-nz/.

[2] Id. at 3-5.

[3] Id. at 1.

[4] See id. at 1 & 5.

[5] Id. at 4.

[6] N.Z. Ministry of Transp., Intelligent Transport Systems Technology Action Plan 2014-18, at 25 (May 2014), www.nzta.govt.nz/vehicles/vehicle-types/automated-and-autonomous-vehicles/testing-autonomous-vehicles-in-new-zealand.

[7] U.K. Dep’t for Transport, The Pathway to Driverless Cars:  A Detailed Review of Regulations for Automated Vehicle Technologies (Feb. 2015), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401565/pathway-driverless-cars-main.pdf [hereinafter U.K. Audit Report].

[8] Id. at 10.

[9] Id. at 11.

[10] U.K. Dep’t for Transp., The Pathway to Driverless Cars:  A Code of Practice for Testing (July 2015), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446316/pathway-driverless-cars.pdf [hereinafter U.K. Testing Guidelines].

[11] U.K. Audit Report, supra note 7, at 118.

[12] U.K. Testing Guidelines, supra note 10, at ¶ 2.11.

[13] U.K. Audit Report, supra note 7, at 10.

[14] Id. at Annex D, Rows 17 & 21.

[15] See Autonomous/Self-Driving Vehicles Legislation, http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/autonomous-vehicles-legislation.aspx (last visited May 26, 2016).

[16] See id.

[17] Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Transp., Secretary Foxx Unveils President Obama’s FY17 Budget Proposal of Nearly $4 Billion for Automated Vehicles and Announces DOT Initiatives to Accelerate Vehicle Safety Innovations, DOT Press Release 02-16 (Jan. 14, 2016), http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/dot-initiatives-accelerating-vehicle-safety-innovations-01142016.

[18] Letter from Paul A. Hemmersbaugh, Chief Counsel, NHTSA, to Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project, Google (Feb. 4, 2016), http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/Google%20–%20compiled%20response%20to%2012%20Nov%20%2015%20interp%20request%20–%204%20Feb%2016%20final.htm.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Dep’t of Transp., Review of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for Automated Vehicles (Mar. 2016), http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/57000/57000/57076/Review_FMVSS_AV_Scan.pdf.

[23] Id. at 20.

[24] Id. at ix.

[25] Id.

[26] Fla. Stat. § 316.86 (2015).

[27] H.R. 7027 (Fla. 2016) (as passed by House, Mar. 11, 2016).

[28] Cal. DMV, Autonomous Vehicles Express Terms (proposed Dec. 16, 2015), https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/ed6f78fe-fe38-4100-b5c2-1656f555e841/AVExpressTerms.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[29] See id.

[30] Assemb. B. 2866 (Cal. 2016) (as referred to Comm. on Appropriations, Apr. 19, 2016), http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billHistoryClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2866.

[31] See id.

[32] Austl. Nat’l Transp. Comm’n, Regulatory Barriers to More Automated Road and Rail Vehicles Issues Paper 5 (Feb. 2016), http://www.ntc.gov.au/Media/Reports/(66E42530-B078-4B69-A5E3-53C22759F26E).pdf [hereinafter Austl. Preliminary Report]; Austl. Nat’l Transp. Comm’n, Regulatory Options for Automated Vehicles 9 (May 2016), http://www.ntc.gov.au/Media/Reports/(049B1ED1-5761-44D5-9E3C-814A9195285D).pdf [hereinafter Austl. Audit Report].

[33] See Austl. Preliminary Report, supra note 32.  The NTC is an independent, inter-governmental agency that develops and submits recommendations to the Transport and Infrastructure Council, which comprises transportation ministers from the federal and state levels.

[34] Id. at 7.

[35] Id. at 7-10.

[36] Id. at 22-24.

[37] Austl. Audit Report, supra note 32.

[38] Id. at Annex, http://www.ntc.gov.au/Media/Reports/(264DF9EA-6247-42C9-8D07-F39E76E95258).pdf.

[39] Id. at 9-12.

[40] Id. at 25.

[41] Canadian Automated Vehicles Ctr. of Excellence, Preparing for Autonomous Vehicles in Canada 5 (Dec. 16, 2015), http:// www.cavcoe.com/Downloads/CAVCOE_AV_White_Paper.pdf.

[42] News Release, Can. Ministry of Transp., Ontario First to Test Automated Vehicles on Roads in Canada (Oct. 13, 2015), https://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2015/10/ontario-first-to-test-automated-vehicles-on-roads-in-canada.html.

[43] Ont. Regulation 306/15 (2016), https://www.ontario.ca/laws/docs/150306_e.doc.

[44] Gov’t of Ont., Automated Vehicle (AV) Pilot Application Form, http://www.forms.ssb.gov.on.ca/mbs/ssb/forms/ssbforms.nsf/GetFileAttach/023-5084E~1/$File/023-5084E.pdf.

[45] Ont. Regulation 306/15 (2016), https://www.ontario.ca/laws/docs/150306_e.doc.

Video: NHTSA Driverless Guidelines Coming in July – Rosekind

Federal regulators will release deployment guidance and state model policy on autonomous driving technology in July, Mark Rosekind, administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told Autoline Network at the TU-Automotive Detroit 2016 show on Thursday. (See the interview below).

The state guidelines are designed to give some uniform structure to autonomous regulations across the nation, said Rosekind.

At the same time, NHTSA must be nimble and flexible in its regulatory approach to driverless vehicles so the rules can evolve as the technology changes, he said.

In addition, we have to make sure the federal role and the state role are clearly identified, Rosekind tells Autoline. Broadly, the feds have oversight of the vehicle while states have oversight of the driver.

For instance, the leader of Volvo complained to US DOT recently that Europe’s patchwork regulatory approach to autonomous driving technology is a hindrance to the technology there, said Rosekind.

“We have a chance in the United States to create a platform that would accelerate (driverless technology) rather than be a barrier,” Rosekind said. “I’m hoping in July when we announce we create a new framework that people around the world will (review). They might say, ‘That’s an approach that works’”, said Rosekind.

NHTSA is working with the American Association Motor of Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) on the guidelines to ensure that the states are on board with the policy, said Rosekind. The AAMVA is the organization for leaders of state departments of motor vehicles.

NHTSA also will probably ask Congress in July for greater leeway in its oversight of the testing of new vehicles, and for “new kinds of approval process” to speed deployment, said Rosekind.

He noted that NHTSA now has exemption authority over tests of vehicles and equipment, giving it the power to allow a test of a maximum of 2,500 vehicles over two years.

NHTSA might ask Congress for the authority to allow the testing of larger fleets over a longer time frame. That would give it the ability to gather a larger sample of data to be analyzed.

 

Michigan Races to Open State to Automated Driving Systems

Burney Simpson

Michigan is seeking to stay ahead of the driverless competition with a bipartisan group of state legislators introducing bills that would allow auto OEMs to operate vehicles with automated driving systems on its roads.

A second proposal would allow for platooning of automated vehicles, where a group of two or more commercial trucks communicate wirelessly with each other to better move in tandem. The trucks typically are closely aligned, reducing drag and typically garnering better fuel economy.

The lead sponsor on each bill is state Sen. Mike Kowall, a Republican from White Lake. Kowall is the Senate’s Majority Floor Leader. Each bill has a number of co-sponsors.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bills were crafted with the Michigan Department of Transportation and have the blessing of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Plans to open up Michigan roads to greater testing and operation of self-driving vehicles was driven by Florida recently loosening its regulations on the technology (See “Michigan Might Match Florida’s Driverless Rules”).

In April Florida allowed anyone with a driver’s license to operate an autonomous vehicle in the state.

Legislatures in California, Massachusetts, Tennessee and other states introduced bills in their spring sessions that opened their roads to autonomous vehicles for testing and other purposes.

Under one of the new Michigan proposals, S-996, the driver of the automated vehicle is an “automated driving system or any remote expert-controlled assist activity shall be considered the driver or operator of the vehicle.”

The bill language limits the operation of the automated vehicle to “a designated area within a municipality”; an “area maintained by a regional authority”; a university campus; a senior citizen campus; or any “geographic or demographic area that is similar” to those.

A second bill (S-995) creates certain definitions for “automated driving systems” and allows for platooning of commercial trucks on any road in the state.

The bill permits a company to operate the vehicle without a human driver, as long as an employee or contractor can monitor that driverless vehicle and take control of it as necessary.

The bill also creates the “Michigan Council on Future Mobility” that will make recommendations on state driverless policy by the end of March, 2017. The Council will continue to work on mobility issues and make recommendations on policy.

The Council will include 11 representatives named by the governor from the fields of business, technology, policy, and research. The Council will also include two state senators and two state representatives from each party.

The Secretary of State, the State Police and the state DOT will also be represented on the Council.

Both S-995 and S-996 put the liability for any accident on the shoulders of the manufacturer of the automated vehicle. However, that liability is removed if the vehicle has been modified in any way.

Feds Should Preempt States on Driverless Regs: SAFE

Burney Simpson

Autonomous vehicles would be developed faster if federal rules could preempt state laws on the technology, the Washington, D.C-based advocacy group SAFE argued last week.

The not-for-profit Securing America’s Future Energy released its The National Strategy for Energy Security: The Innovation Revolution paper, a 160-page pdf listing a host of new approaches to powering transportation, at a series of presentations at the Newseum.

The report calls for the federal pre-emption of state autonomous vehicle regulations, the start of live testing of the vehicles in select communities, and an office at the Department of Transportation to lead development of the technology.

“We need uniformity and consistency of regulations across all 50 states so autonomous vehicles can be developed,” said Amitai Bin-Nun, director of Safe’s Autonomous Vehicle Initiative.

ElectricCharge1Safe was joined at its event by John Krafcik, chief of Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving cars group, along with executives from Nvidia, producer of graphic processing units; Peloton, groundbreaker in truck platooning research; and Moovel, Daimler’s urban mobility operator.

Safe advocates for America’s energy security, arguing the country’s transportation sector is too dependent on foreign oil. Instead, the “widespread adoption of plug-in electric vehicles would put an end to oil’s stranglehold on the U.S. transportation system,” according to its website.

Safe’s Energy Security Leadership Council is led by Frederick Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Corp., and General James Conway, a retired Marine Corps Commandant.

Safe has set a goal of reducing oil demand by 50 percent by 2040, and autonomous vehicles are central to that objective, Conway said.

“I would argue that we probably don’t get there unless the autonomous vehicle movement succeeds and becomes our mainstay,” said Conway, according to Safe’s The Verge news source.

Safe’s national strategy paper comes amidst a contentious debate over driverless regulations in California, a leading autonomous vehicle center.

Last December the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles floated the idea of requiring drivers physically sitting behind steering wheels in driverless cars. Google responded the proposal failed to understand the point of the vehicles, and didn’t recognize the capabilities of the technology.

Soon thereafter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pledged to release this summer guidelines for the states on autonomous vehicles.

Since then, the California State Legislature has considered several proposals that sought to limit the authority of the state DMV.

THREE REG CHANNELS

Most states haven’t taken a hard look of driverless technology. As of April, eight states and the District of Columbia are either allowing testing of the technology on their roads, or are conducting research on the topic, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“We don’t know where states will wind up. They might include (requirements) for a driver and a steering wheel,” said Bin-Nun. “Designing a vehicle for different states is very difficult for the auto OEMs.”

Safe believes driverless oversight should be organized in three channels, said Bin-Nun.

First, regulations on vehicle hardware should continue to be set at the federal level, while states should continue to control local licensing, insurance, traffic laws, and driver-for-hire rules, he said.

Third, a federal office should regulate autonomous vehicle safety rules, said Bin-Nun.

Safe last year created its autonomous vehicle task force and ramped up its promotion of electric-engine equipped autonomous vehicles (See “Autonomous Cars = Lower Oil Imports”). Bin-Nun became director of the department in February.

A shift to electric-powered vehicles would reduce the use of gas-powered internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

In contrast, electric vehicles get charged by power supplied by the electric power industry. Domestic energy sources coal, natural gas, nuclear plants, hydro plants, and wind and solar provide the fuel for electric utilities, according a study from The Washington Post.

Photos: Electric car reloading/recharging, 2011, by Ludovic Hirlimann; Foto e vide di tutti I modelli, 2015, by Automobile Italia.

States on Front Lines on Driverless Policy: Seminar

Burney Simpson

State legislators will be among the most influential writers of driverless vehicle policy and an upcoming seminar will argue it is essential they are involved as the technology evolves nationwide.

The one-day “Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation: A State Perspective Workshop” will be held on Wednesday, May 18, at the University of Maryland.

“Most transportation legislation is created at the state and local level. State legislators are on the front lines of the changes we will see with this technology,” said Stanley Young, the conference organizer and advanced transportation and urban scientist with the National Research Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“We need to get state and local officials engaged and aware of the issues as these massive changes occur in society,” said Young.

He notes that driverless transportation has the potential to reduce traffic fatalities and accidents, improve mobility for seniors and people with disabilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as vehicle idling and wasted trips

The seminar runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Howard Frank Auditorium at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, on the school’s College Park campus, near Washington, D.C.

Most states have yet to address autonomous and connected vehicle technology even though it could impact transportation for years to come. This is despite huge media attention on the topic, and a few states that are actively testing the technology.

Transportation experts will have to add autonomous vehicles to their discussion topics which traditionally have focused on highways and transit, said Young.

The workshop brings together a number of nationally-known experts in the driverless field.

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.

Another panel features state legislators active in autonomous vehicles. 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 recently enacted legislation designed to build driverless-oriented business and encourage research on the technology (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 workshop is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) at the University of Maryland, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, and NREL, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Photo: FBI Press Conference by Jay Baker, 2014

Florida Takes Brakes Off Driverless Tech

Burney Simpson

The Florida legislature just shifted the state into high gear in its effort to expand the testing of autonomous vehicles.

The Sunshine State enacted a transportation bill that allows someone with a valid drivers’ license to drive an autonomous vehicle on public roads; gave autonomous vehicles some leeway in the equipment they can use; set in motion a truck platooning test; and required metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to consider autonomous technology when writing long-range transportation plans.

The legislation takes effect on July 1.

The bill included eight provisions related to autonomous vehicle technology. (A summary by the Florida Senate of the bill’s “changes specific to the operation and regulation of autonomous vehicles” is pasted below).

The biggest step is giving licensed drivers the freedom to operate autonomous vehicles, and clarifying some rules on testing.

Another part gives autonomous vehicle operators the right to install video screens near the driver, and to use other equipment so they can monitor the vehicles performance. The provision bans related equipment from standard vehicles.

A provision requiring MPOs to include advances in driving technology in their 20-year plans could become influential. Many planners complain that cities aren’t getting ready for the possible revolution in transportation that driverless vehicles may bring.

The platooning portion doesn’t make platooning legal but waives for testing purposes some current rules on the following distance that trucks are allowed, according to Ken Armstrong, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association.

Armstrong says his organization is supportive of autonomous vehicles but not necessarily driverless vehicles.

“If this can save money, and save hours of service — there are a lot of reasons to support it,” said Armstrong.

STATE COMPETITION

The new law puts Florida in the thick of state competition for autonomous and connected vehicle testing dollars from auto OEMs, Tier 1 auto suppliers, and others.

Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who crafted sections of the bill related to autonomous vehicles, told the Orlando Sentinel that he worked “with partners at Audi and Google – the original equipment manufacturers” on the legislation.

Florida, California, Michigan, Nevada, and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation allowing for testing of autonomous vehicles on their public roads, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Virginia and Arizona later joined this club through executive actions by their governors. North Dakota and Utah have approved studies of autonomous vehicles.

The Tennessee legislature recently passed a bill from state Sen. Mark Green that could lead to the operation of autonomous vehicles on its roads as soon as next January. However, that proposal awaits the governor’s signature.

Tampa, along with the state of Wyoming and New York City, is part of a U.S. Department of Transportation test of connected vehicles. The Tampa portion focuses on implementing connected technology on a local freeway and its possible impact on commuters.

The Florida Senate’s legislative tracking service provided this summation of the transportation bill’s provisions on autonomous vehicles:

  • Clarifying that the authorization for a person holding a valid driver license to operate an autonomous vehicle applies on the public roads of this state.
  • Revising provisions regarding the operation of autonomous vehicles on roads for testing purposes.
  • Revising equipment requirements for autonomous vehicles, requiring a system to alert an operator of a technology failure and to take control, or to stop the vehicle under certain conditions.
  • Prohibiting operation of a motor vehicle on the highways of this state while the vehicle is in motion if the vehicle is actively displaying moving television broadcast or pre-recorded video entertainment content visible from the driver’s seat, unless the vehicle is equipped with autonomous technology and is being operated in autonomous mode.
  • Providing that an electronic display used by an operator of a vehicle equipped with autonomous technology or by an operator of a vehicle equipped with driver-assistive truck platooning technology is not prohibited.
  • Defining the term “driver-assistive truck platooning technology;” requiring the FDOT to study, in consultation with the FDHSMV, the use and safe operation of driver assistive truck platooning technology; and authorizing a pilot project to test vehicles equipped with such technology.
  • Requiring manufacturers of such technology to provide insurance before the start of the pilot project and requiring the FDOT, in consultation with the FDHSMV, to report the results of the study and any findings or recommendations from the pilot project.
  • Requiring metropolitan planning organizations to accommodate advances in vehicle technology when developing long-range transportation plans and requiring the FDOT to accommodate advances in vehicle technology when updating the Strategic Intermodal System Plan.

Photo of Beach Hop by Floyd Wilde.

Volkswagen Deal Sends D20 Over 150

The Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index jumped 1.4 percent this week, closing Friday at 150.31, its first close above the 150 mark since early January. Paced by 13 gainers and seven losers, the D20 easily beat the less than 1 percent rise notched by the Dow and the S&P 500.

Leading the D20 in price gained this week with a 13.4 percent leap, Volkswagen (VLKPY) announced it had settled with US regulators over its emission scandal. The settlement will punish Volkswagen dearly as some estimates put the total cost as high as $42 billion.

Swedish truck maker Volvo AB (VOLV-B) jumped 9.3 percent in price, almost crossing the SEK 100 barrier with a close at SEK 99.15. By losing $40.23 or 5.3 percent per share, Alphabet (GOOG), parent of Google, helped keep the D20 in check. Alphabet’s price dropped this week after its announced earnings and revenues fell short of analyst’s predictions.

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

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.

California Pols to DMV: Relax Draft Driverless Regs

Burney Simpson

Legislation moving in the California State Assembly calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles to step back from the draft regulations on driverless vehicles it announced in December.

Two proposals take shots at the California DMV’s oversight of autonomous vehicles.

The General Assembly chamber passed the third Thursday with a unanimous 71-0 vote.

That proposal is not confrontational, asking for an exemption to DMV rules so fully-autonomous shuttles can operate at a business park near Silicon Valley, a first for the U.S.

GoogcarCalif2But the overwhelming approval of the proposal indicates that legislators want the DMV to step back from its tough approach to driverless regs, according to the sponsor, Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla.

“This (bill) could prod and show the DMV the interests of the legislature,” she said. “The state wants to move forward on driverless vehicles.”

The proposals follow Google’s public disagreement with portions of the DMV’s draft, and its announcement that it would test its driverless vehicles in Kirkland, Washington, and Phoenix. (See “Google Expands Self-Driving Car Tests to Phoenix, Arizona”).

The DMV’s draft called for driverless vehicles to have steering wheels, pedals and other traditional equipment, that a driver be in the vehicle, and that the driver have a special certificate for operating the cars.

The agency said that the rules must be strict to ensure public safety while the technology evolves.

Google said the draft failed to recognize the rising capabilities of the technology, and would make it near-impossible to develop vehicles that could be used by the blind, people with disabilities, and others who can’t drive.

TEXAS-SIZE COMPETITION

The first proposal that challenges the DMV is by Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, a Republican from Diamond Bar.

The Transportation Committee on Monday approved Chang’s AB 2682 that would require the California DMV to hold public hearings if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposes a model state policy on driverless vehicles.

GoogCarAustin2NHTSA has already pledged to meet a July deadline for finishing the policy document. It held a public hearing on the guidelines on Friday in Washington, D.C., and plans a second on April 27 at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.

In effect, Chang’s proposal would require the DMV to openly debate the model state policy.

Chang said in a release her bill is designed to make California more competitive so it can grow driverless business activity in the state.

“We are competing with business-friendly states like Texas to keep the tech in California so we need to make sure we don’t lose another opportunity for keeping jobs in California – and potential federal funding,” Chang said.

Google began testing in Texas last year, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has asked Congress for $4 billion over 10 years to speed the development of driverless vehicles.

Chang’s proposal now goes to the Appropriations Committee for a cost review.

The second proposal, AB 2866, is from Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Burbank Democrat, who issued a fact sheet that echoed Chang’s points.

Gatto argues that the DMV’s draft rules would “effectively render autonomous vehicles illegal” but his bill “will ensure that California is not outcompeted by other states in the launch of this unique technology” so it can “reap the economic and public health benefits of autonomous vehicles.”

AB 2866 calls for the California DMV and the state Highway Patrol to hold a safety feasibility test of driverless vehicles on public roads in three counties. The test would include the participation of one or more autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

Gatto’s legislation is scheduled to be heard April 18 by the Transportation Committee. 

AN EASYMILE FOR GOMENTUM?

The proposal that earned unanimous approval relates to the GoMentum Station vehicle test bed in Concord operated by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. GoMentum offers 5,000 acres and 20 miles of roads, and clients have included Honda and Mercedes.

Sponsor Bonilla, a Democrat from Concord, says she introduced AB 1592 so a business park near GoMentum could test driverless shuttles that do not have an operator, a steering wheel, a brake pedal, or an accelerator.

WEpod driverless shuttleGoMentum partnered with France-based EasyMile to operate two shuttles in what they say is the first use of Shared Driverless Vehicles in the U.S.

In practical terms the shuttles will cross over some public roads as they operate in the 685-acre Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon, says Bonilla. The bill allows the shuttles to travel on the public roads even though they are driverless.

Bonilla believes the success of the proposal tells the DMV to rethink its draft regulations.

“There was some consternation towards the DMV. They took too long, and (the regs) were outdated,” said Bonilla. “We just got 71 legislators to move (my bill) to the Senate. That shows the interest of the state legislature.”

Bonilla’s proposal must still be approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor.

 

Photo – California Republic by Hakan Dahlstrom, 2009.

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