Legal challenges facing the driverless car continue, explored by Simmi Sinha.

In our article Guinea-pig testing casts a ‘shadow’ over driverless tech we discussed the challenges of autonomous vehicle testing and how to support the auto industry’s drive towards mass market adoption of the technology.

What’s clear is that it remains a long and winding road on the way to a comprehensive legislative framework for autonomous vehicles but the first steps on this journey have already been taken. In the US, many states have already passed legislation or issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles. In a recent development California would allow developers of autonomous vehicles to test their technology on the states roads without human drivers riding along. With the prior requirement of the California Department of Motor Vehicles that self-driving cars carry a human driver behind the wheel, manufacturers have been forced in their ability to test and deploy their most advanced systems.

Navigating the legality

Andrea Sroczynski, managing director, SBD Automotive told us the industry needs to now what it’s looking for from legislation: “In terms of legislation of autonomous vehicle, the major regions (USA, Japan, EU and China) have different approaches but they are all trying to facilitate the testing of Level 3 and higher on public roads. Some regions are trying to be more accommodating to the OEMs’ wishes than others, however, one legal aspect that is likely to have a major impact is the type approval process currently being discussed at the United Nation.”

Jesse Sultanik, marketing manager with Argus Cyber Security emphasises the point that: “AV regulations will likely require certifications from manufacturers that their AV hardware and software can perform regular driving functions. Additional requirements may also include a reporting scheme where vehicle malfunctions and potential cyber-attacks are communicated to regulators, a safe mode mechanism in case of technological failures and a simple process to disable AV functions. Proposed AV regulations also include requirements to fend off cyber-attacks with detection, prevention and monitoring solutions. We expect cyber security to be an integral part of any AV-specific regulation in the future.”

Sroczynski added: “The most important regulation is the UN regulation 79 which is currently being amended to include a function for an automatically commanded steering functions (ACSF) operating at over 10 kph (6.2 mph). One of the key parameter to be agreed is the take over request (TOR) time when the vehicle transition back to Level 2 from Level 3. Four seconds is currently in the consolidated document from the sixth session which met in April 2016, there is still considerable discussion to be held before the figure is agreed. This number is highly significant as it will impact greatly safety and is directly related to the vehicle sensing performance.”

AV legislation regulations

Sultanikemphasises the need for communication, saying: “AV manufacturers may also need to convey to consumers the types of data that can be generated about them and their vehicles and provide a mechanism for consumers to give and take-away consent for using that data. Control over personal data is the driving force behind the upcoming GDPR regulation in Europe that goes into effect in May.”

However, things are very different in other parts of the western world. He added: “Currently in the US, there is a patchwork of regulations that allow various degrees of AV testing and deployment in different states. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles just passed an updated AV testing and deployment regulation enabling the testing of vehicles without a test-driver being present in the vehicle. The new regulation also allows for the deployment of AVs for commercial use as long as, among other things, the manufacturer certifies the AV is capable of defending against, detecting and responding to cyber-attacks or other unauthorised intrusions or false vehicle commands.” On the Federal level, proposed regulations would take AV rule-making and oversight away from the states and consolidate those responsibilities with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Compromised innovation

Confused standards pose a real problem for an industry at the cutting edge of innovation, said Sultanik. “OEMs need regulators to be clear about future regulations in order to make the long-term plans and investments that lead to innovation. Every day the industry waits for clarity and timelines from regulators delays the development and implementation of new technologies. Further, there are states that still do not permit AV testing which further limits the ability to put technologies and recent innovations to the test.”

Sroczynskibelieves there is a widening gulf between regions leading the way on legislation. She said: “If you asked which region might ‘win’ the race of an autonomous vehicle mass market launch it is really hard to say.  At the moment the USA is probably the most OEM-friendly especially with the Trump administration. However, China being China, they could overnight change everything and overtake everybody – they are in the lead for 5G for example.”

Therefore, it is worth noting that not all regions will necessarily have to follow the UN regulations, however, this will impact on many carmakers selling vehicles around the world.

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TU-Automotive Detroit 2018

06 Jun 2018 - 07 Jun 2018, Novi, USA

With 150 speakers, a 200,000 sq ft exhibition and 3000 attendees, TU-Automotive Detroit is the world's biggest conference & expo for connected & autonomous cars.