On March 10, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a first-of-its-kind final rule updating occupant safety requirements to account for vehicles that lack the traditional manual controls associated with a human driver.1
The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued the state’s first autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Nuro, Inc. The deployment permit authorizes Nuro to operate commercially in two counties in the Bay Area. NHTSA released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking requesting comments to assist in developing regulations regarding the deployment of autonomous driving systems (ADS). The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established a permitting program, which will open the door to commercial autonomous vehicles in California. NHTSA’s request for comments demonstrates that industry support will be critical to developing ADS safety regulation and provides opportunities for public engagement. The CPUC’s regulations could lay a foundation for development of ADS frameworks for other states and potentially future NHTSA regulations.
Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that gives independent mechanics greater access to vehicle data, a move that vehicle manufacturers have foreshadowed could have significant cyber and privacy risk for automobiles and their drivers. Specifically, the measure allows independent mechanics (those not affiliated with a manufacturer) access to telematics data, which wirelessly collect and transmit mechanical data relating to a car’s performance and maintenance. The initiative, available here, updates and expands a “right-to-repair” law that was signed into law in 2013, giving independent repair shops universal access to vehicle diagnostic data via the physical onboard diagnostics port. Although opponents of the initiative argued that it would do nothing to improve the consumer experience, proponents contended that the amendment was necessary because the 2013 law specifically excluded access to most telematics, which allegedly put independent repair shops at a disadvantage. The initiative is seen as a win for independent repair shops; however, it comes with possible cybersecurity concerns surrounding the usage and storage of personal data. The approved initiative requires manufacturers to equip vehicles with an “open data” platform that will allow motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to onboard diagnostic systems via a mobile app, starting with year 2022 models, which are already currently in production. Just as the enactment of the original right-to-repair law spurred automakers to adopt a nationwide standard for access to diagnostics ports, it is likely that the passage of this initiative will have a nationwide effect.
Akin Gump published a client alert on the U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House’s National Science and Technology Council issuing version 4.0 of their guidance on the deployment of autonomous vehicles. The updated version, AV 4.0, provides an overview of the U.S. government’s involvement in AV policy and development. It shifts federal AV guidance toward a multi-agency, coordinated effort led by the White House. The new guidance builds off prior versions to present 10 U.S. government AV technology principles organized across three core interests: protecting users and communities, promoting efficient markets and facilitating coordinated efforts. AV 4.0 continues the U.S. government’s general hands-off approach to the AV industry, promoting the importance of industry leadership without offering binding restrictions. To read the full alert, please click here.
Akin Gump published a client alert on the release of a partial discussion draft of autonomous vehicle legislation and a hearing unveiling guiding principles for future AV legislation. These developments may indicate a desire at the federal level to develop the laws, regulations and policies needed to spur the wider-scale testing and deployment of AVs. Last month, the two committees with jurisdiction over AV policy revealed three draft sections of a pending federal AV bill. Earlier this month, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing regarding the deployment of safety technology for AVs. The Committee sought input from the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board to help inform the legislation. To read the full alert, please click here.
Based on recent activity in Washington, D.C., it is possible that we will see developments this fall related to autonomous vehicles (AV) policy. A letter from key congressional committees seeking comments on AV issues and other developments suggest we may see draft AV legislation after the August recess. Two recent rulemaking notices from the Department of Transportation (DOT) also suggest that we may see changes in federal regulations that could ease restrictions on the use of Automated Driving Systems (ADS). Now is the time for leaders in the industry to work to influence developments in Washington.
This week, the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee signaled that they may be reviving efforts to pass federal autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation. In a letter to automobile manufacturers and other industry stakeholders, the Committees sought input on AV-related issues. The Committees indicated that they are working together on bipartisan AV legislation and asked for industry input by August 23.