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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. (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). (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. (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. (more…)