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Autonomous Vehicle Law

The latest news and analysis surrounding the intersection of the autonomous vehicle industry and the law, from Baker Donelson.

Coronavirus Response: Real-World Case for Expanded Autonomous Vehicles Testing in the U.S.

In response to the onset of  the COVID-19 outbreak, companies suspended autonomous vehicle (AV) programs in an effort to limit contact between drivers and riders and to comply with social distancing recommendations.   While limited continued testing of autonomous vehicles will still be possible via virtual simulation tools, AV technology, within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, may still present the possibility of addressing critical needs and providing essential services through the use of driverless delivery vehicles.   The combination of the need to minimize health risks presented to and by human drivers who deliver vital supplies and materials to the public, and the ability of AVs, equipped with disinfection tools, to deliver such items, may incentivize public authorities to authorize expanded testing and use of AV throughout the U.S. read more…

NTSB Press Release Discusses Nine Safety Recommendations for Level 2+ Autonomous Vehicles

Yesterday, the NTSB released a press release regarding its investigation into the fatal March 23, 2018 fiery crash of a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, California. The investigation puts most of the blame on the driver of the vehicle (who had been playing a game on his iPhone at the time of the accident), but the NTSB also issues nine safety recommendations and directed them to NHTSA, OSHA, SAE International, Apple, and other manufacturers of portable electronic devices. read more…

EU Data Protection Regulator Issues New Guidelines for Personal Data Processing in Connected Vehicles

In a development that is likely to be monitored by U.S. legislators and regulators in considering new controls on personal data being collected in connected automotive vehicles, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) issued new guidelines addressing the processing of personal data within the context of such vehicles on February 7, 2020, and will remain open for public comment until March 20, 2020. The guidelines focus on data flows involving data that is processed in the connected automobile, exchanged among vehicles and personal devices that interface with them, and shared with third parties, such as insurance carriers that monitor driving habits and patterns. The EDPB considers most, if not all, such data to be personal data, as it includes the driver’s identity and other data relating to driving style, travel distances and geolocation, which may be cross-referenced with a vehicle identification number, and therefore may be linked to the driver’s identity. read more…

Congressional Update on AVs

Congress is working in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion to build upon last year’s stalled legislation (SELF DRIVE Act (H.R.3388) and its companion bill, AV START Act (S.1885)). The legislation would establish standards and lay the foundation for a federal framework regulating AVs, making it easier to test AVs on public roads. Despite considerable bipartisan and industry support, AV START never made it to the Senate floor because of holds concerning cybersecurity, data privacy, and arbitration. Notably, the bills last year were silent on arbitration but plaintiff’s lawyers wanted (and still want) language prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration agreements to be included in the bill. Congressional staff has begun drafting additional sections for the revamped legislation, but the past roadblocks keep resurfacing. Passage in this election year is conceivable but far from certain. read more…

NHTSA Grants FMVSS Exemption to Nuro’s Package Delivery Vehicle R2 – First Self-Driving Vehicle Exemption

This is one of the biggest steps forward in autonomous vehicles we’ve seen yet. Last week, the NHTSA granted an exemption for Nuro‘s second-generation R2 low-speed, driverless, last-mile package delivery vehicle. The R2 was designed to deliver packages in urban areas. The exemptions allows the R2 to operate on public roads without mirrors (exempting the R2 from FMVSS 111), allows for it to have an opaque “windshield” (exempting it from FMVSS 205’s incorporation of ANSI Z26.1-1996 70 percent light transmittance requirement), and for it to be able to operate its rear-view cameras at all times (current regulations make rear-view cameras turn off when the car is moving forward to prevent driver distraction). read more…

AV 4.0 Is Out – All Talk, No Action

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, DOT secretary Elaine Chao unveiled the Trump Administration’s AV 4.0, entitled “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies.”

AV 4.0 is different from the prior three AV iterations, which were generally confined to the DOT’s jurisdiction. AV 4.0 was a joint project between the DOT and the White House’s National Science and Technology Counsel, and encompasses the AV-related activities of 38 federal agencies and commissions (including some interesting ones such as the USPS and NASA), and seeks to place those disparate activities within an overarching federal playbook, which are grouped into 10 policy principles under 3 “core interest” areas. Most of the 56 pages in AV 4.0 is nothing more than a regurgitation of the activities of the 38 federal agencies that have participated in AVs. read more…

California Authorizes Light-Duty Delivery AVs – Robots Will Soon Be Delivering Your Pizza

California recently allowed the testing and commercial use of light-duty delivery AVs on the state’s public roads, provided the company has a permit from the California DMV. Under the new regulations, companies with that permit (which become available for approval in January 2020) can operate delivery AVs weighing less than 10,001 pounds. Qualifying vehicles include autonomous passenger cars, midsized pickup trucks and cargo vans carrying goods such as pizza or groceries. Delivery AVs will be required to comply with the same application requirements currently in place for testing and deployment of autonomous passenger vehicles. Depending on the permit, companies can test their autonomous delivery service with or without a safety driver. Companies must apply for a deployment (commercial use) permit with the DMV to charge a delivery fee. read more…

Sprechen Sie “JV”?

In yet another joint venture, Mercedes-Benz and Tier 1 supplier Bosch have developed a joint project to develop AVs. The two companies recently launched trials of automated, highly-instrumented, S-Class vehicles in San Jose, California. Monitored by a safety driver, these vehicles travel between West San Jose and downtown, along San Carlos Street and Stevens Creek Boulevard. The trials aren’t open to the public, but are instead only open to a “select group of users.” They will use an app developed by Daimler Mobility AG to book a journey by the automated S-Class vehicles from a defined pick-up point to their destination. Bosch and Mercedes-Benz have been working together on autonomous solutions for over two years, with the goal of launching Level 4/5 production-ready vehicles that can be integrated into different vehicle types and models. read more…

Just in Time for Christmas, Self-Driving Truck Delivers Butter from California to Pennsylvania

Land O’Lakes recently enlisted Plus.ai, a three-year-old Cupertino, California-based startup, to haul a truckload of butter from California to Pennsylvania. Onboard the semi-truck was a safety driver who was ready to take over driving duties in case the truck encountered a situation it couldn’t handle, along with a safety engineer who was aboard for observation purposes. read more…