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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.

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…

VW Charting Independent Course to Putting AVs on the Market by the Mid-2020s

Volkswagen recently announced the creation of a subsidiary called Volkswagen Autonomy (VWAT) to focus on making “market-ready” autonomous vehicles. We’ve previously blogged about OEMs collaborating in the AV space, such as the tie-up between Ford and VW, but it appears that with VWAT, VW is looking to chart an independent course towards producing AVs with a goal of having them on the market by the middle of the next decade. read more…

Autonomous Vehicles Drive Demand for Puncture-Resistant Tires

Solid, airless tires preceded today’s pneumatic tires but were replaced by radial tires for better ride comfort. With the advent of autonomous vehicles, interest in airless tires is resuming. Today’s cars spend the majority of their days idle. Autonomous vehicles will spend most of their days in motion (and hopefully without a driver to check on the tires) and thus the necessity for a breakdown-proof tire becomes a priority. Michelin pioneered the technology in 2005 on a wheelchair, and they were commercially launched in 2012, but in limited-use cases such as lawnmowers and golf carts, and construction machinery, all of which have higher puncture risks. read more…

Lexus to Launch All-Electric Vehicle in 2020 with Autonomous Highway Driving, Issues Remain

Lexus announced its first-ever all-electric vehicle recently at the Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota (Lexus’s parent company) has made no secret about investing in AVs, but has been slower than some of its competitors. We recently blogged about Toyota’s tie-up with Subaru to collaborate on AVs. With the forthcoming Level 2 autonomous vehicle, and in light of recent notable accidents involving AVs, Lexus is continuing its deliberate thought process on launching AVs. The new vehicle will be able to operate on highways, from entrance ramps to off ramps, with traffic merging capabilities, according to Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Tomoyama. read more…