Autonomous Vehicle Market Hijacked by Legislation and Liability Issues

26 Sep 2014

​“Legislation and liability issues and uncertainties are expected to remain the main obstacles for autonomous vehicles becoming widely adopted in the next decade. Current autonomous vehicle legislation is fragmented, with rulemaking often passed on a local, less competent level due to the lack of national or international guidance, for example from NHTSA (U.S.) or the EU. However, the recently amended UN convention on Road Traffic is a notable exception, though the condition the driver should at all times be able to override or switch off autonomous features precludes fully driverless vehicles,” says VP and practice director Dominique Bonte.

In the United States, California is leading the way not only having approved legislation for testing but also preparing rules for commercially operating autonomous vehicles on public roads. Isolated initiatives in other regions such as Sweden and Japan are largely related to projects from national car brands Volvo and Nissan. However, governments in countries such as the United Kingdom and Singapore are actively promoting autonomous driving as a key future intelligent transportation technology.

Closely linked with the lack of legislation, the uncertainty surrounding liability keeps many car OEMs from aggressively pushing autonomous technology, many of which are already heavily involved in recall related liability cases, fearing autonomous driving will further shift liability from the driver to the car maker. The role of governments will be critical, especially for proposing and regulating liability limiting and/or sharing mechanisms, including taking on some of the liability themselves, especially where cooperative V2X systems are involved, in order to reduce legal exposure of the industry which threatens to stifle innovation.

While the emergence of autonomous vehicle technology is very visible and dramatic, it is just one example of the more general automation trend in the wider IoT across a large number of industries including energy, transportation, healthcare, telecommunications (SONs), aviation, smart buildings and the military sector which will face similar legislation and liability questions. It represents a huge challenge and opportunity for both public law makers and private legal practices.

ABI Research’s Autonomous Driving Legislation and Liability report is part of ABI Research’s Automotive Safety and Autonomous Driving Market Researchwhich covers OEM and aftermarket telematics, infotainment and connected car solutions, ADAS, active safety and autonomous vehicles.

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