Chris PagliariniProfessor RoseroPols 4350-018/13/2018
Autonomous Vehicle Policy Analysis
Since the first automobile was patented in 1886 by Karl Benz they have rapidly expanded through the 20th century into the modern world as one of the greatest and most utilized inventions known to man. Automobiles quickly became the most accessible form of transportation over the last century with their improved technology and safety. In recent years the automotive world has turned its focus towards a new breed of travel, one without a driver. In 2010 Google announced that its employees had been developing and testing systems for autonomous vehicles which quickly sparked a competition among automotive manufacturers and innovators to become the first company with a fully operational autonomous vehicle. As of 2018 there are a handful of manufacturers leading the innovation towards autonomous vehicle creation. The automotive giants like general motors, Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Nissan, BMW, Volvo, Tesla, and many others have made significant steps towards the futuristic dream of an autonomous vehicle. As the technology grows and becomes more sophisticated, there is a growing concern for the government policy and regulations regarding this new breed of vehicle.
These vehicles before being implemented will need to prove to regulators and the technology community that they are feasible and more importantly that they are safe. The problem is not that the vehicles have the potential to limit traffic accidents, because that is certain, but whether automatous vehicles or AV’s are able to integrate into human traffic without any human responsibility for their operation. Autonomous vehicles will change the way people travel, and its unsure how exactly this will affect traffic regulations and laws. The laws will need to be modified to accommodate this new emerging area of technology. Along with integrating AV’s into society, who will be held accountable in the event of an accident, the manufacturer or the driver? The world of autonomous vehicles is currently surrounded by questions from the hundreds of stakeholders within it about the feasibility and responsibility of this product. With questions on the rise, the world of AV’s rapidly became entangled with political controversy, and regulatory challenges that are necessary to determine the safest and best possible ways to bring this futuristic technology from an idea to a reality.
With an estimated 1.3 billion personal and commercial automobiles in use as of 2015, the scale of stakeholders involved in the autonomous movement is unimaginable (OICA). Autonomous travel will affect all areas of the world and it’s important to identify to key stakeholders which will ultimately determine how AV’s are developed and integrated. The three most important stakeholders that will influence and direct the development of AV technology consist of government policymakers and planners, consumers, and manufacturers.
Policymakers will have the greatest influence in determine the rules and responsibilities for AV’s. The regulations will be driven at the federal, state, and local levels. On a national scale, two primary agencies need to be considered: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) (Brett et al. 11). Due to the nature of AV’s, the traffic laws and regulations will need to be entirely reformed which is influenced at the federal level because “policymakers and planners…finance major infrastructure projects and manage the nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels through federal tax dollars” (Brett et al. 11). The federal agencies will need to adapt and understand what exactly AV’s are and their capabilities before financing major projects to accommodate autonomous travel. When discussing the topic of safety, the federal regulators will also be tasked with modifying the national safety standards and is challenged to adapt the existing federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) (Brett et al. 12). The FMVSS standards are currently revolved around a driver which causes complications when considering a vehicle with no human interaction. It’s important for downstream stakeholders like consumers and innovators to be provided a consistent policy framework at the federal level to allow for complication free development, implication, and operation. The Federal government’s main role to influence AV’s is through funding, and research while their cooperation with other stakeholders is crucial for the success of this technology (Brett et al. 12).
At the state level, governments will need to cooperate with federal regulations and development state regulations to further accommodate AV transportation. States are responsible for regulating transportation through driving laws and inspection requirements. The state funding for infrastructure development is generated through tolls and taxes which will directly affect consumers due to the scale of development needed (Brett et al. 14). In addition to regulating driving laws, each state government is responsible for their own Department of Transportation and will be responsible for constructing and maintain roads which AV’s will be travelling on. The most important role of state governments is to cooperate with neighboring states to develop consistent laws. Googles technical leader, Chris Urmson, highlighted that “if every state is left to go its own way without a unified approach, operating self-driving cars across state boundaries would be unworkable and one that will significantly hinder safety innovation, interstate commerce, national competitiveness, and the eventual deployment of AV’s” (Bomey).
At the local government level governments will be responsible for understanding the costs and benefits of AV technology on communities. Responsibilities of local government include but are not limited to: “right of way management, parking policy, and congestion pricing” (Brett et al. 15). Ultimately local governments will play a role in “creating a network of regulations… using their demographics, geographies, and transit behaviors…that address the spectrum of local costs and benefits AV technology in transportation” (Brett et al. 15).
In addition to policymakers, consumers are a major stakeholder in AV’s since after all, they are the ones using the vehicles. It’s expected that consumers will have a dramatic increase in access to automotive transportation, which will provide mobility and benefits for not only people who are able to drive, but everyone from children to the mentally disabled” (Brett et al. 16). The increased mobility will be driven by key stakeholders in the ride sharing industry like Uber, and Lyft by bringing vehicles to those who don’t own one. Although the accessibility to vehicles will increase, consumers will be faced with large increases in the value of vehicles. Due to increased technology and development costs of AV’s, companies will need to charge much higher prices while the technology is new. Overtime the cost is expected to decrease but at an early age, the high cost of AV’s is expected to limit the amount of people who are financially capable of owing one (Brett et al. 17). Along with increased mobility and cost, the biggest dilemma for consumers is trust. A study conducted by AAA suggests that Americans are hesitant to put faith in AV’s which will lead to a period in which the roads are congested with manual and automated operating vehicles, which could potentially lead to safety concerns. The study states that roughly 75% of drivers would be afraid to let an AV drive itself (AAA Newsroom). It’s understood that public trust will affect the growth and development of AV’s across the globe.
The third major stakeholder is manufacturers which is comprised of automakers and innovators. The automakers are the ones making the vehicles and are currently investing large sums of money into AV’s to drive the technology forward. AV’s are considered to “be a potential threat to existing distribution models and creates new potential competitors for traditional manufacturers.” (Brett et al. 20). Car manufacturers will need to re-think there go to market strategies due to the increased cost of development and competition from private innovators like Google, Apple, and Tesla. Private innovators are a threat because they have the financial capital to develop key components like sensors that are needed to build autonomous vehicles. These innovators see an open market full of benefits through the development of technologies that traditional automakers need. The innovators become a stakeholder because they hold patents and licensing abilities for the AV technology. Brett explains that to facilitate the development of AV’s, manufacturing stakeholders will need to “cooperate in order to advocate for policy reforms…for safety, liability and cost reductions” (Brett et al. 22). With the massive scale of automotive vehicles the stakeholders are endless and nationwide cooperation is required to make AV’s a true reality.
In recent years autonomous vehicle technology has increased, and respectively political controversy has been increasing as well. Since AV’s are quit new policymakers have yet been able to make significant progress towards creating regulations for the mass production of AV’s. Once mass production begins, thousands of autonomous vehicles will take the roadways. Currently, the only fully autonomous vehicles on the road are test vehicles and contain a backup driver. The current controversy is revolved around defining what exactly an autonomous vehicle is and how it will impact transportation safety, cost, mobility, and traffic congestion. In addition, policy makers face the challenge of determining what kind of AV’s should be allowed and who is liable for accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines AV’s through a six-part system from level 0, which contains no automation, to level 5, which is a vehicle that performs all driving functions (lynberg). The problem that arises is that with six different levels of automation, there is no clear way of defining a universal policy for all AV’s. Each level of AV will require a different set of regulations. Current regulations have mainly been focused on levels 3-5 and exclude systems like driver assist. At level 5, with full automation the benefits among safety, economy, efficiency, and mobility are certain but implementing AV’s into traffic with human drivers is a dangerous task. Autonomous vehicles will always follow traffic laws and regulations, but human driver may not, putting everyone at risk of an accident. Given the high stakes there’s controversy about the testing required for AV’s and how safe they should be before entering the market place.
In addition to the danger of human and automation interaction, there’s controversy over the technology and infrastructure needed for AV’s. James Anderson states that “vehicles can use a combination of GPS and INS…but challenges remain because these systems can be somewhat inaccurate in certain conditions” (xix). With uncertainty about certain conditions the vehicles may malfunction causing an accident. Also, the mass production and funding of infrastructure to control AV’s is undetermined. AV’s will require large amounts of telecommunication equipment to be developed to maintain vehicle to vehicle communication. If this digital communication was to fail or be subjected to a cyber-attack, then the lives of drivers could be put at serious risk. The uncertainty of performance of the vehicles increases the liability implications. Ultimately, when perfected AV’s will bring about lower insurance costs due to the decrease in crashes. Anderson believe that with lower insurance costs, “manufacturers product liability may increase” (xxiii). In the event of an accident its undetermined who will be liable, the driver or manufacturer? The uncertainty revolved around the safety and liability of AV’s can only be determined through on road testing. In the event of accidents during testing, public trust in the technology may decrease which could further separate the technology form becoming a reality.
The current nature of policy surround autonomous vehicle is relatively new. The technology is growing rapidly, and policy makers are gaining traction by providing laws and legislation at the federal and state levels. Anderson states that current “legislation was necessary to permit testing or even operation of a driverless vehicle, existing law permits the use of driverless cars (41). The legislations “define Av’s as vehicles with the capability to self-drive without being actively controlled or monitored by a human operator” (Anderson, 41). On the federal level, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration has released federal guidelines for automated driving systems (ADS). The guidelines focus of levels 3-5 of automation and defines that “entities do not need to wait to test or deploy their ADS, revises design elements from the safety self-assessment, aligns federal guidance with the latest developments and terminology, and clarifies the role of federal and state governments” (ncsl). The guidance additionally “attempts to provide best practices for legislatures, incorporating common safety-related components and elements regarding ADS that states should consider incorporating into legislation. Additionally, it includes DOTs view of federal and state roles and provides best practices for state legislatures and best practices for highway safety officials” (ncsl). The federal government has taken proper action to provide its state and local stakeholders with the proper guidance and legislation for further development and implementation of AV’s. Other related federal legislation consists of The SELF Drive Act (H.R. 3388) and the American Vision for safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act (ncsl). Both legislations aim to make changes to federal law regarding autonomous vehicles and the updates required to federal motor vehicle safety standards. In addition, as of January 2016, the department of US transportation announced a “commitment of nearly 4 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation. The new policy is designed to facilitate and encourage the development and deployment of technologies with the potential to save lives” (ncsl). With the support and funding of federal stakeholders, AV’s are going to continue to develop and the public trust will increase knowing that the vehicles are indeed being observed and regulated.
On the state level, Nevada was the first state to propose legislature allowing the operation of autonomous vehicles. Currently the National Conference of State legislatures recorded that in 2017, 33 states had introduced legislation regarding AV’s. The amount of states involved is rapidly growing considering in 2016 only 20 states had introduced legislation. Currently, twenty nice states have enacted legislation and governments in 10 states have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles (ncsl). Among the state legislation there are similarities and differences. One notable similarity is that “all of the enacted measures and implementing regulations similarly define AV’s as vehicles with the capability to self-drive without being actively controlled or monitored by a human operator” (Anderson, 41). State legislature has been unified in focusing regulations on level five of automation which strengthens the legitimacy of the policies. Most state legislature has been written with the intent of testing, development, and promotion of self-driving technologies among public road systems. The legislations begin to vary in terms of liability laws. Some states like “Florida, Nevada, and Washington D.C provide liability protection for original equipment manufacturers whose vehicles are converted to autonomous controls” (Anderson, 43). These states declared that manufacturers are not liable to damages if their vehicles have been converted by a third party. For example, if Google uses a Ford vehicle to test their AV capabilities, the manufacturer is not liable for any damages. On the other hand, states like “Colorado, retains liability for damages with the driver who may or may not use autonomous guidance technology while other states such as Hawaii, absolve manufacturers of liability where a car has been retrofitted by a third party…where there is no verifiable recklessness identified” (Anderson, 44). Overall, the manufacturer of the vehicle, unless they have installed autonomous technology themselves, are not liable for any damages in the event of an accident. The liability is either placed on the driver of the vehicle or the third party which installed the technology. The conflicting state laws could place strain on the deployment of AV’s. The non-uniformity places strain on the manufacturing stakeholders among the US market because they will have to meet different sets of standards for vehicles sold in different states. Anderson explains that “Inconsistent state laws might increase costs and hinder the use of this technology in a way that harms social welfare for little apparent gain” (53). With autonomous testing miles increasing at a rapid rate the inconsistency will need to be unified to facilitate industry growth and limit regulatory challenges.
Since the birth of autonomous vehicle technology, legislators have worked to determine the safety and methods for how to implement them into society. With the federal and state stakeholders taking part in creating regulations, the foundation has been set for AV’s to move forward but many things remain vulnerable to challenges. The regulatory challenges for the AV industry can be analyzed using the four key regulatory challenges laid out in Roger Brownsword ; Morag Goodwin’s book: Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century: Text and Materials.
The first key regulatory challenge is prudence and precaution. Brownsword and Goodwin explain that prudence and precaution should be taken when addressing topics like health and safety when there is some uncertainty about how risky the technology is. When considering AV technology most federal and state legislators have exercised a prudent approach by allowing manufacturers and third parties to test AV systems on public roads. Legal stakeholders are acting in the best interest of society because the prescribed benefits of AV’s are substantial. Although prudent precaution has been executed allowing the technology to flourish, moving forward precaution will be needed to determine regulations for the mass production of AV’s and there impact on populated roadways. Long term challenges that will need to exercise precaution include autonomous to manual vehicle interaction, infrastructure development, efficiency standards, and most importantly safety standards.
The second key regulatory challenge is regulatory legitimacy which outlines whether the regulations placed in effect exercise the correct procedures, legal power, ethical standards and means to enforce. AV’s from a legal aspect will require a more complex thinking since the vehicle is making decisions acting on behalf of a human with life or death consequences. The laws and regulations must consider that autonomous vehicle policy will vary greatly from traditional vehicle regulations. Beiker A. Sven in Legal Aspects of Autonomous driving outlines the necessary legal action needed for autonomous vehicles to integrate in society. Beiker states “it is unclear how courts, regulators and the public will react to accidents involving robotic cars. Overreaction is a clear danger; even could it be shown that a transition to autonomous vehicles lead to far fewer traffic related deaths” (1152). She explains that it is crucial for regulators to create a clear and concise policy to maintain the legitimacy of regulations in the case of an accident. At the federal level, laws currently have been consistent and objective toward AV technology, but at the state level the inconsistency is causing problems for manufacturers and regulators. To further unify the nation to promote and develop this technology states will need to unify regulations to increase their legitimacy. Beiker describes that due to the interdisciplinary nature of AV’s, regulators are required to “research in a variety of aspects to establish policies and a common understanding of benefits, identity and address challenges, and educate future experts in the field” (1153). The legitimacy of policies will require a vast amount of knowledge compiled together to create regulations that outline the benefits for society and the potential challenges that may be faced ahead. Without proper guidelines the technology may grow too rapidly, causing key safety and economic factors to potentially be overlooked.
The third key regulatory challenges laid out by Brownsword and Goodwin is regulatory effectiveness. Regulatory effectiveness covers the guidelines for determining whether the regulation delivers its intended effects along with if the regulation is economical and efficient. When regulating a new technology, it must be effective to ensure the technology can flourish while maintaining safety and economical standards. For AV regulation, the most important aspect to ensure effective regulation is to determine whether the regulating stakeholders have the proper capabilities and competence. The scientific community must convey information clearly and outline the benefits and hazards to allow the regulating bodies to make clear and concise regulations. Brownword and Goodwin describe that “regulates (scientific community) need to know where they stand. Where the resources available to regulators are inadequate, they might act on poor policy advice” (61). By providing clear information to regulating bodies, it will strengthen the regulators integrity in defining clearly articulated rules that are not over complex. A regulator will create policies according to the knowledge at hand; the greater the knowledge the better outcome for society. The current AV legislation at the federal level has done a good job of doing this. Federal regulators have received in depth reports from manufacturers and innovators that enabled the NHTSA to objectively define an AV, and offer guidance to state legislature to correctly define policies. At the state level, manufacturers have failed to convey their concerns to regulators and as a direct cause are now being exposed to confusing and inconsistent policy which is slowing down development and production of AV’s. In economic terms, its crucial for regulators to promote the technology and competition among innovators. With the number of states proposing legislature on the rise it promotes companies across the nation to develop new methods for designing AV’s. Competition in technology increases funding and has potential to spark economic growth.
The fourth regulatory challenge that is crucial to the success of policies is regulatory connection which states that as technology evolves, regulators must ensure that their regulation continues to make sense. Regulatory connection relies on determining a balance between being overly-specific and overly-vague. Regulatory bodies must understand that too little governing can lead to excessive unknown health and safety risks undermining public confidence, while too much can limit development and preclude potential health and economic benefits. One element that will cause significant challenge for regulators is the rapid growth of AV’s. The regulatory environment and technology of AV’s is changing on a yearly basis and the scientific community must continue to inform regulators of the changes being made. The NHTSA, ensured connection by defining AV’s on a zero-five scale. Each level clearly defines the amount of human interaction with zero being fully manual and 5 being full autonomous. This allowed regulators to define clear rules for each level of automation. To ensure the regulations stay connected, manufacturers and innovator will need to supply regulators with details pertaining to the level of autonomy in their vehicles. Brownsword and Goodwin explain that it’s important for regulators to become connected with technology early in its growth to minimize any negative effects (54). With AV technology primarily becoming popular in 2010, regulators are on the right path considering federal legislation, 29 state enacted legislations, and 10 state executive orders have come into effect in only eight years. Regulators acted adequately throughout the early stages to allow the technologies to be tested and ensure the public would see limited negative effects. To prevent any form of disconnection with the technology, regulators must stay up to date with the terms, benefits, and hazards of AV’s. If a disconnection occurs, then the technology may cause significant harm to society and reduce public trust which in turn will decrease funding bringing AV technology to a halt.
Over the past eight years autonomous vehicle technology has been the next technology that has the potential to change the world as we know it. The technology is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to be fully function in years to come. AV’s are facing significant challenges in determining the potential effects to society, and most importantly the correct way to integrate the technology with minimal negative effects. Before AV’s can become a reality, two crucial problems need to be discussed and regulators need to form concise policies to maintain standards. The first is how to integrate AV’s into society and ensure the safety of drivers. In the early stages, traffic will consist of manual and automated operated vehicles. Ensuring that the AV’s will be able to react properly and not disrupt current traffic laws is vital to the success of the technology. Second, regulators must determine who is liable for AV’s in the event of an accident. AV’s are predicted to greatly reduce the number of accident but inevitably accidents will happen. The current policy surrounding AV’s has taken the proper steps to allow the technology to progress while maintain the safety of society. With federal regulators defining AV’s and offering guidance to state regulators there has been an overall nationwide cooperation to promote and support the technology. Moving forward more concise and objective state legislature will be needed to ensure manufacturers and innovators are not confined by the regulations. The current policy has been sufficient in protecting society throughout the testing phases of AV’s. but as the technology approaches the mass production; further regulations will be needed to maintain a regulatory connection. Autonomous vehicles have great potential, pending if the scientific community and regulators maintain cooperation and work together to make this technology a reality.
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