Driving to the City of Tomorrow

The Road Ahead

In late 2017, our client Keolis, a global provider of transportation services, began taking part in the largest self-driving pilot project in the United States to operate in live traffic. Sponsored by the American Automotive Association (AAA), the project launched an autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas and represents the first self-driving vehicle to be fully integrated into an urban traffic infrastructure.

Uncharted territory

Over the course of a year, 50,000 residents and visitors will have a free, firsthand experience—for most of them, their first—with autonomous vehicles (AV’s). Taking such a bold step in a developing sector raised many questions and unprecedented legal issues, requiring forward-looking counsel and collaboration among lawyers across different practices.

Regulators gear up

The debut of every disruptive technology inevitably draws the attention of courts and regulatory agencies, generating debates and dueling priorities about safety, cybersecurity and data privacy, products liability, intellectual property, insurance and other compliance-related risks. As Keolis entered this cutting-edge space, Akin Gump demonstrated to them how a team of diverse practitioners can pull together to deliver a full fleet of solutions.

Firing on all cylinders

An innovative spirit is a hallmark of Akin Gump’s AV cross practice initiative. Akin Gump lawyers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Houston found concrete ways for Keolis to manage risk. The team addressed the liabilities and other legal aspects of this uncharted area from a number of angles—roles and responsibilities for safe operation, cybersecurity and privacy issues and the state and federal regulations regarding AV’s. (Nevada has updated its laws and regulations to include AV, seeking to balance safety with innovation.) The lawyers then brought that understanding to bear in assisting Keolis in drafting and negotiating agreements with other parties. These were drafted to reflect that the project was indeed a pilot, and that Keolis was not obligated to provide any guaranteed level of service. The end result is a ride into the future in one of the largest tourist destinations on earth.