How Will State Regulations Fill the Gap for Self-Driving Cars

It’s only a matter of time until self-driving cars will revolutionize our transportation system and it will be extremely common to see them on the roads.

But until that happens, this industry is in serious need of strict regulations.

While companies such as Google Waymo, Ford or Tesla already play an important part in the research and development process of self-driving vehicles, it’s also essential lawmakers and local authorities take part, as well.

After all, the authorities are the ones who decide where and under what conditions car manufacturers and other tech companies can test their self-driving vehicles.

As automated driving systems are getting closer to the deployment stage, it’s crucial for governments to understand the need for updating obsolete safety regulations.

Let’s take a look at the self-driving cars regulations which were introduced all around the world.

Self-Driving Cars Regulations All Around the World

1. US

In the US, each state makes its own autonomous driving legislation. Today, companies can test their self-driving vehicles in 33 states.

California and Arizona are the only two states where autonomous cars are allowed to operate on its public roads without a driver starting this year.

2. Europe

In the UK, the government passed a bill which formulates the liability and insurance policies connected to autonomous cars. More than that, the UK government wants to ensure the country remains one of the world’s best places to develop, test and drive self-driving vehicles.

That is why the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission will start a three-year review process of examining the current driving laws and figuring out how they can be adjusted to support the vehicles of the future.

Germany’s Parliament passed a law last year which allows companies to test self-driving cars on the roads.

The Netherlands’ Council of Ministers approved the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver last February. Moreover, the Dutch government will be spending €90 million to adapt the majority of the country’s traffic lights so they can communicate with the autonomous cars.

The Swedish Road Transportation Authority is also authorizing permits and supervising trial according to the law when it comes to self-driving vehicles testing.

3. Asia

China is not as open to self-driving cars regulations as the other countries we mentioned, but they’re definitely getting there. Shanghai issued the first self-driving vehicles permits only a month ago and it also allowed two car manufacturers to test their autonomous cars on the roads.

Singapore passed a law which recognizes the fact motor vehicles don’t require a human driver and is surely an attractive environment for companies which want to test their self-driving vehicles.

Right now, South Korea allows autonomous vehicles on the roads only if they have issued licenses. Also, the country has been working on K-City, which is the largest artificial town ever built for testing self-driving cars. Right now, it is partially opened and the cars can be tested on the highways which have been built.

4. New Zealand

The New Zealand Government is open to testing autonomous vehicles and encourage the early adoption of this technology. Also, the law does not specify anything about the requirement to have a driver in the car.

Now that we’ve seen how different countries regulate self-driving cars testing, let’s see how these state regulations can fill the gap in this industry.

The Importance of State Regulations

The state regulations have the role of defining the following aspects:

  • Who is legally responsible. Whether we’re talking about an accident or receiving a fine, the law needs to establish extremely clearly who will be liable in various scenarios. Here’s an example. You’re waiting for your autonomous car to take you home in front of your office building. The car will drive itself from the nearest parking spot. When it arrives, you notice there’s a fine in the windshield wiper. The state regulations need to determine who broke the law — was it you who didn’t actually parked the car, the company which developed the vehicle’s software or the car manufacturer?
  • How will civil and criminal responsibility be allocated. This is especially important where there is shared control between humans and computers. We probably won’t be seeing autonomous cars without a steering wheel on the roads soon enough and so, for safety reasons, the human driver will be required to take control when needed. The law needs to establish if the human, the car or the software will be at fault in case the car is involved in an accident.
  • What is going to be the role of autonomous vehicles in the public transport, car sharing and on-demand services. The autonomous technology will be used for both personal cars and in public transportation. Because of this, governments will have to develop a regulatory framework which addressed important issues such as privacy, cybersecurity and safety of the public. New standards will be needed to ensure the fact they are aligned with the newest technologies.
  • Whether there is a need for new criminal offenses. It appears self-driving vehicles are at a greater risk of being hacked compared to cars which are not equipped with this technology. This is something which worries most drivers, which is why it’s important for governments to create regulations and new criminal offenses which can criminalize hackers who target autonomous vehicles.
  • How will other road users be protected. The law needs to take into consideration pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to protect them from risk. The regulations are meant to establish strict rules which are meant to protect road users who are not using autonomous technology.

About a month ago, a self-driving Uber vehicle was involved in a fatal accident. The car struck a woman who was walking across the street and the vehicle showed no signs of slowing down.

This incident raised a lot of concerns in the industry and a lot of companies actually suspended their self-driving cars tests. Yet again, this proves how important laws are for these type of situations.

Some automakers consider state laws are actually getting in the way of progress, instead of encouraging it. That is why it’s essential for the private and the public sector to work together towards issuing regulations rather sooner than later.

Time will tell if the governments will be more open towards self-driving cars legislation and how the laws will impact the development of the industry.

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