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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.

The Modern MASS-T Head: The Rise and Reality of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships

Of modern standers-of-mast-heads we have but a lifeless set; mere stone, iron, and bronze men; who, though well capable of facing out a stiff gale, are still entirely incompetent to the business of singing out upon discovering any strange sight.

MOBY DICK, Chap. XXXV. “THE MAST-HEAD”

While driverless terrestrial vehicles have been a hot topic in the media and the blogosphere (including on this blog) – from Tesla autopilot crashes to self-driving freight trucks – there has been an equally (if not more) anticipated and analyzed trend (some would say nascent revolution) in the less popularly publicized international maritime vessel operations: the rise of autonomous vessel technologies on the world’s oceans, rivers, and harbors. The term of art for these autonomous vessels – “maritime autonomous surface ships,” “MASS” for short – is ironically cognate with the very vessel “MASters” that autonomous technology would stand to replace.

The initial forays into the possibilities of autonomous vessel technologies began (more or less) with Rolls-Royce just into the second decade of the 2000s. Since then the concept has been put to numerous actual proofs by Rolls-Royce and others, and it is safe to say that it is now not a matter of if or even when MASS technology enters the market, but rather the extent to which MASS technology will disrupt traditional global shipping and vessel operations. And while the technical advances have been steadily developing in the hands of engineers, regulators have been attempting to keep pace with the legal ramifications of MASS. read more…

Florida Opens Its Roads to Driverless Vehicles

On June 13, Florida enacted legislation allowing cars without human drivers to begin operating on its roads. While Michigan and Texas also allow cars without human drivers to some degree, Florida has gone one step further, by prohibiting local regulations that differ from state law, essentially making all of Florida’s roads fair game for testing AVs. read more…

Eleven Companies Propose Guiding Principles for Self-Driving Vehicles

On July 2, 2019, 11 companies (Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Continental, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Here, Infineon, Intel, and Volkswagen) published a 157-page whitepaper (“Safety First For Automated Driving“) describing a framework for the development, testing, and validation of “safe” autonomous vehicles. The whitepaper summarizes the various levels of automated driving with the goal of developing a baseline that might one day become an industry standard. read more…

Senators Markey and Blumenthal Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Against Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Risks in Vehicles

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), both members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, reintroduced the Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act last week. The bill aims to protect drivers from cybersecurity and data privacy risks in increasingly computerized motor vehicles. While the prospect for passage in this Congress is highly unlikely, the bill addresses two of the most critical issue areas hindering the enactment of any meaningful autonomous vehicle legislation. read more…

Automated Vehicles and the Insurance Industry

The Casualty Actuarial Society’s Automated Vehicle Task Force released a 76-page report entitled “Automated Vehicles and the Insurance Industry, A Pathway to Safety: the Case for Collaboration.” The report discussed the impacts AVs will have on personal automobile premiums, compensating claimants, product liability impacts, non-premium considerations, automated vehicle risk and risk minimization strategies, and safety benchmarks. read more…

Insurance Consideration for Autonomous Vehicles

The recent A.M. Best podcast “The Approaching Wave of Autonomous Vehicles Drives New Risks to Insurers – Episode #154” is timely in light of changing patterns of automobile design and ownership. Those who wonder if the state regulatory system and insurance industry can handle autonomous vehicle development need look no further than Tennessee’s response to problems caused by Uber and self-driving vehicles. read more…

Tesla Autopilot Lawsuit in Florida

On October 30, 2018, Shawn Hudson filed a lawsuit in Florida state court against Tesla, claiming that Tesla’s Autopilot system did not perform as advertised and caused his Model S to crash while on his commute to work. In the lawsuit, Hudson alleges that he paid $5,000 extra for the Autopilot feature so that he could relax on his 125 mile commute. In his first year of ownership, Hudson put 98,000 miles on the Model S, using the Autopilot function frequently. The complaint alleges that the more he used the Autopilot feature, the more he came to rely on it. read more…