Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Autonomous Vehicles Update

Generally, an autonomous vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Classifications have been developed by governments and professional associations to describe the levels of automation.

A classification system based on six different levels (ranging from none to fully automated systems) was published in 2014 as “J3016 (Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems)”, by SAE International, an automotive standardization body. SAE International, initially established as the Society of Automotive Engineers, is a U.S.-based, globally active professional association and standards developing organization for engineering professionals in various industries. Principal emphasis is placed on transport industries such as automotiveaerospace, and commercial vehicles.

The SAE automated vehicle classifications are:

-                Level 0: Automated system has no vehicle control, but may issue warnings.
-          Level 1: Driver must be ready to take control at any time. Automated system may include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Parking Assistance with automated steering, and Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II in any combination.
-          Level 2: The driver is obliged to detect objects and events and respond if the automated system fails to respond properly. The automated system executes accelerating, braking, and steering. The automated system can deactivate immediately upon takeover by the driver.
-          Level 3: Within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks, but must still be prepared to take control when needed.
-          Level 4: The automated system can control the vehicle in all but a few environments such as severe weather. The driver must enable the automated system only when it is safe to do so. When enabled, driver attention is not required.
-          Level 5: Other than setting the destination and starting the system, no human intervention is required. The automatic system can drive to any location where it is legal to drive and make its own decisions.

In Ontario Canada, Ontario Regulation 306/15, which came into force on January 1, 2016, uses SAE Standard J3016.

Many autonomous vehicles are being developed, but as of March 2017 automated cars permitted on public roads are not yet fully autonomous. They all require a human driver at the wheel who is ready at a moment's notice to take control of the vehicle. There is a lot of testing going on. The bulk of the testing is in California.

As of mid-March, the number of total number of companies in California now licensed to test drive autonomous vehicles on California roads totals twenty-seven. This is double the number of companies licensed a year ago and up from just seven in early 2015. According to the Department of Transportation in California the number of self-driving test vehicles on their roads is now one hundred and eighty.

The players in Silicon Valley now are:
Volkswagen Group of America
Mercedes Benz
Delphi Automotive
Tesla Motors
GM Cruise LLC
Zoox, Inc.
Drive.ai, Inc.
Faraday & Future Inc.
Wheego Electric Cars Inc.
Valeo North America, Inc.
NextEV USA, Inc.
Telenav, Inc.
NVIDIA Corporation
AutoX Technologies Inc.
Udacity, Inc
Navya Inc.
Renovo Motors Inc.
PlusAi Inc.

Under the testing regulations, manufacturers are required to provide the DMV with a Report of Traffic Accident Involving an Autonomous Vehicle within 10 business days of an incident. The California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Regulations require every manufacturer authorized to test autonomous vehicles on public roads to submit an annual report summarizing the disengagements of the technology during testing. “Disengagement” means a deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle.

There is active debate as to when we will see the arrival of fully autonomous cars in operation on our roads. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla has made a prediction that it will be in 2020. The head of Nissan has made a similar prediction. Uber foresees having an entirely driverless fleet by 2030 (a mere 13 years away!).

Governments, insurers, judges and lawyers will have to grapple with the issues raised by the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

In February 2017, the United Kingdom introduced The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.  It sets out how the liability for accidents involving automated vehicles should be apportioned. It also sets out whether the owners of those vehicles are insureds, the liability of insurers, the ability to recover amounts paid from manufacturers, and other providers of systems.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles will have profound effects on government and many industries.

Legislators will need to consider the following issues:

-       Liability between owners, manufacturers, third party providers, insurers
-       Safety standards
-       Infrastructure – road building, communications, traffic management, licensing
-       Cybersecurity and privacy

Many industries will be affected:

-       Technology companies
-       Insurance
-       Commercial transport and logistics, workforce
-       Travel industry – airlines, taxis, hotels, rental cars
-       Healthcare
-       Criminal liabilities
-       Legal – patents, product liability, contracts

In the following months, we will be exploring the different aspects of law with the introduction of autonomous vehicles, vessels, aircraft and rail carriers. 


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