The big takeaways from The Autonomous Vehicle Safety Regulation World Congress centered on the importance of a federal scheme for AV regulation and the reality of the states’ interest in traditional issues such as traffic enforcement, product liability, and insurance coverage. In keeping with those messages, the World Congress kicked off with NHTSA Deputy Administrator and Acting Director, Heidi King, speaking about NHTSA’s goals and interest followed almost immediately with wide participation from the states including California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, among others.
Deputy Administrator King emphasized NHTSA’s desire to foster an environment of collaboration among all stakeholders, including the states. Ms. King emphasized that safety remains the top priority at NHTSA. NHTSA has provided some guidance, and looks forward to hearing from stakeholders about the best way to support and encourage growth in autonomous vehicles. NHTSA wants to provide a flexible frame work to keep the door open for private sector innovation. It is necessary to build public trust and confidence in the safety of autonomous vehicles, and that can only accomplished by all stakeholders working together.
NHTSA is working on the next version of AV guidance, having already issues its 2.0 version, with an expected release of 3.0 in 2018. The guidelines will remain voluntary, but NHTSA is ready to support entities as they try to implement the voluntary guidance. Working with the states, DOT, OEMs, and other stakeholders, NHTSA hopes to continue to be flexible and allow for rapid changes. Later in the conference lawyers emphasized the importance of compliance with the guidance in minimizing liability particularly in no-fault states such as Michigan.
Dr. Bernard Soriano, deputy director, California Department of Motor Vehicles, similarly confirmed that California’s overarching interest in regulating AV is the safe operation of vehicles on its roadways. In summarizing California’s recent October 11, 2017 release of revised regulations, he emphasized that “change happens fast,” and that the state is pleased to now be close to allowing completely driverless testing. He recognized the federal preemption on the design of the vehicle and its crashworthiness and emphasized the state’s interest in the operation of the vehicles and compliance with state traffic laws.