The Fuse

This Week In AVs: NHTSA Launches AV TEST; AVs And Personal Liability; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | June 18, 2020

NHTSA Launches AV TEST Initiative
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced this week that it is launching the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) initiative which is designed to improve the safety and testing transparency of self-driving cars. Companies such as Fiat Chrysler, Cruise, Waymo and Nuro have all signed on to the voluntary initiative, as have state governments including Michigan, California and Florida. James Owens, deputy NHTSA administrator, told media that publishing testing information will encourage companies competing in this area to “up their game to help better ensure that the testing is done in a manner fully consistent with safety.”

However, critics of the initiative have been quick to point out that it is voluntary. There are no federal regulations that set out a framework for responsible nationwide AV deployment, and there are currently no federal requirements for AV companies to disclose testing data to the government. Such disclosures are currently governed by a messy state-by-state patchwork of regulations.

Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Personal Injury Law
An analysis of AVs examines what may happen to issues of liability as AV deployment becomes more widespread. Noting that issues of liability in accidents will shift from the driver to the vehicle, the article notes that determining who is at fault becomes muddled as it might be technology, the company operating the vehicle, or a third party which installed the parts. It is likely to be more difficult to identify a claim and ascertain who is at fault—and subsequently it will be harder to gain compensation, the article adds, as “products liability cases take years to litigate, and if people get involved in an accident with a self-driving vehicle, it’s more than likely it’ll end up as a product liability case.”

The article concludes that as AVs promise to be significantly safer than conventional vehicles, with a near-total absence of incidents involving driver error, the future of the personal injury law industry is under threat. As a result, the industry will have to adapt and “prepare for this impending future rather than focusing on the now.”

Truck Automation Advances On I-70 Corridor
A $4.4 million Federal Highway Administration grant, recently awarded to the Ohio Department of Transportation, will help the agency complete its I-70 truck automation corridor project as it looks to deploy and advance automated truck technology in both Ohio and Indiana. Running between Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana, the corridor is a joint project between the Ohio and Indiana transportation departments, DriveOhio and the Transportation Research Center, and will provide trucking companies and AV developers with a venue to deploy and refine automated technologies. The development of this corridor follows a 2016 $15 million initiative by Ohio governor John Kasich to turn a 35-mile section of the state’s Route 33 outside Columbus into a testing ground for AVs.