Driverless Cars: The Legal Landscape

Driverless Car

The world of driverless cars – also known as autonomous vehicles – is coming, but is our country ready for it? Our innovative program will focus on important questions about regulations, standards, and rules of liability for these vehicles of the future. 

On June 14, 2017, the George Washington University Law School, through its Innovation and Internet Initiative Program, hosted a full day discussion bringing together

  • Industry representatives;
  • Federal and state officials with experience in regulation of motor vehicles;
  • Auto safety advocates;
  • Workers whose jobs may be displaced by these vehicles;
  • Experts on legal liability, cyber-security, data privacy, and antitrust law. 
  • Ralph Nader will also deliver special remarks at lunch. 

The big question for our policy makers and for this conference is, can we strike a proper balance between protecting the public and not unduly stifling innovation? As part of an effort to answer that question, the conference explored the proper roles of the federal, state, and local governments, as well as whether courts, legislators, or administrative agencies should make these vital decisions.  

For more information, please contact Kristen Pallmeyer at 202.994.4692 or kpallmeyer@law.gwu.edu.


Agenda
9 - 9:45 am: Opening Discussion and Overview

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Speaker

  • Jonathan Weinberger, Auto Alliance

Topics

  • What is a driverless car, now and in the short and long term futures?
  • How will they be used by individuals, businesses, governments, and transportation services?
  • What are the specific public and private benefits that are anticipated from HAVs?

9:45 - 10:45 am: Panel 1 – The Testing Phase

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Panelists

  • Bernard Soriano, California DMV
  • Michael Brooks, Center for Auto Safety
  • Ralph Manzano, ATI21
  • John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog

Topics

  • What will California require during the testing phase and will that protect the public and not stifle innovation?
  • What role, if any, should cities and counties have in approving testing of these vehicles?
  • Should manufacturers be required to gather certain data and submit it to safety agencies and make it available to the public?

11 am - 12:30 pm: Panel 2 – The Deployment Phase

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Panelists

  • Bernard Soriano, California DMV
  • Charlie Haake, Global Automakers
  • Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen
  • Steve Wood. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Topics

  • What kind of regulatory system (premarket approval, compliance with specific standards, enhanced recall authority, or other) would be desirable? 
  • Should the rules for driverless cars be exclusively federal rules or is there a basis for state regulation of deployed vehicles?
  • Would the necessity of issuing rules specific for driverless cars cause undue delay in bringing some or all of their features to market, or are there legitimate safety concerns that justify those delays?
  • What data, crash-related and other, should be collected and made public available for deployed vehicles?

1:15 - 1:30 pm: Special Remarks by Ralph Nader

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1:30 - 3 pm: Panel 3 – Liability & Insurance

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Panelists

  • Harvey Rosenfield, Consumer Watchdog
  • Victor Schwartz, Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  • Robert Rabin, Stanford Law School
  • Tom Karol, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies   

Topics

  • “Rules and laws allocating tort liability could have a significant effect on both consumer acceptance of HAVs and their rate of deployment. Such rules also could have a substantial effect on the level and incidence of automobile liability insurance costs in jurisdictions in which HAVs operate.”  NHTSA Policy Statement, p. 46.
  • Should states continue to decide liability rules, and if so should that be done by courts, legislatures, or administrative agencies?
  • Regardless of who decides the liability question, what is the best (right) answer as to who should be liable: the manufacturer; the vehicle owner; the component part or software maker; or some combination of them?
  • If there is uncertainty on the liability issues, how will that affect the willingness of HAV manufacturers to proceed and insurance companies to provide coverage?

3 - 4:15 pm: Panel 4 – Other Issues: Impact on Workers; Cyber-Security; Uses & Abuses of HAV Data; and Antitrust Concerns 

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Panelists

  • Enjoli DeGrasse, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • David Vladeck, Georgetown Law Center
  • Joshua Corman, The Atlantic Council
  • Albert Foer, American Antitrust Institute

Topics

  • What impact will a significant deployment of HAVs have on workers in a variety of fields, and what, if anything, should be done about it?
  • Are there real dangers of hackers taking control of an HAV and causing it to malfunction?
  • Are the privacy principles that NHTSA has set forth in its September 2016 Policy Statement (pp 19-20) adequate?
  • Are there dangers of antitrust violations from industry collaboration outside the rulemaking context?

Resources