The Harmonization of Autonomous Vehicle Regulation and the 2019 DC Auto Show

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We are in the midst of a self-driving vehicle revolution. While the Elon Musk’s of the world eagerly work toward making autonomous driving a reality, others like President Donald Trump would rather pass on utilizing the new technology.

“Yeah that’s cool but I would never get in a self-driving car. … I don’t trust some computer to drive me around,” Trump is reported to have said to an enthusiastic new Tesla owner at his Bedminster golf club in 2017.

Whether any of us are psychologically ready or not, the fact remains that we still lack the infrastructure as well as generalized regulation to ensure safety and uniformity in autonomous driving conditions.

United Nations World ForumAuto Show

With this in mind, more than 50 representatives from 40 countries will meet on April 1 and 2, prior to the Washington D.C. Auto Show’s MobilityTalks International® conference, to discuss Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations pertaining to autonomous vehicles.

The group is part of United Nations Economic Commission Europe Working Group 29 and is part of the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP 29) Informal Working Group Validation Method for Automated Driving (VMAD) under the Groupe de Rapporteurs Vehicle Automation (GRVA). The U.N. Working Group meets several times a year around the world, most recently in Hongzhou, China.

Top members of the group include Takao Onoda, Director General Japan Automobile Standards Internationalization Center; Dr. Peter Striekwold, Manager Vehicle Standards Development, RDW Japan; Ryuzo Oshita, Professional Partner, Tokyo Engineering Division, Toyota Motor Company; and Bill Gouse, SAE International.

“The attendance of this group which is leading the creation of vitally important rules and regulations to govern autonomous vehicles is another sign of the growth of the Washington Auto Show’s MobilityTalks on the world stage,” Washington Auto Show President and CEO John O’Donnell said at the announcement of the historic meeting.  “The auto show is proud to have a part in not just the discussion on, but the creation of, the rules for self-driving vehicles.”

Interstate Regulation in the U.S.

In the U.S., the federal government has traditionally regulated vehicles, while leaving the regulation of drivers to the individual states. This division of responsibilities gets fuzzy when the driver and the vehicle are one-in-the-same.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the “A Vision for Safety” document in 2018, which takes a non-regulatory approach toward promoting autonomous vehicle safety. The document supports the industry, states’, and other key stakeholders’ best interests as they design best practices for autonomous driving.

The NHTSA report details vehicle cybersecurity as one of its 12 priority design safety elements. The report suggests agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NHTSA, SAE International, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers be potential overseers of this process.

The worries about cyber security have been highlighted by some skeptics of autonomous vehicles who worry that terrorists can hijack autonomous vehicles en-masse and perpetrate a catastrophic event.

Because of this and other concerns, a strong central oversight of these vehicles is necessary and will be part of the ongoing evolution of the self-driving revolution.