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The impact of autonomous vehicles – part 7

Bhoomi Patel
May 5, 2020

Departments of transportation (DoTs) will have to play a crucial role in terms of introducing effective legislative framework that covers policies, laws, and guidelines for operating autonomous vehicles.

The emergence of departments of transport in a key role

An effective legislative framework will be supported by mechanisms of collecting vehicle data, monitoring the vehicle for compliance and alerting the appropriate liable party (driver or vehicle; OEM, component provider or system provider). Such a framework will have to evolve over time, as AVs at different levels and non-AV vehicles co-exist. This will in turn have an impact on the limits of liability for OEMs, component manufacturers, system providers, and integrators.

Many of the regulations formulated to date are directed towards the driver to ensure safety.

With AVs, DoTs will need to review these and direct them towards car makers, eventually removing the human out of the equation.

Many United States jurisdictions have enacted, rejected, or are currently considering a variety of laws related to autonomous vehicles, but only a very small number have addressed the impact of the autonomous vehicle industry on OEMs.

The legislative framework will need to define responsibility and liability in situations of accidents or conflicts. Incident sources could potentially be design defects, manufacturing defects, component- or system-level defects, etc. As a mitigation measure, most OEMs may limit their duty to warn of risks that could be “reasonably” identified at the point and time of sale. However, what of over-the-air (OTA) patches that may not be pushed to the vehicle in time or for reasonable reasons may be rejected by the vehicle within that timeframe? Where then does the sole responsibility/liability lie? The dynamics of liability go beyond those of a conventional vehicle accident.

The claimant would potentially be looking at least four non-exclusive parties to sue:

  1. “Operator” (human driver or automated system)
  2. OEM
  3. Component provider
  4. System provider.

For the legislative framework, this could either have binding regulations or optional recommendations concerning the use of AVs at the various levels. In 2011, for example, in the US, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) issued 49 CFR Parts 571 and 585 requiring electronic stability control (ESC) systems—an L1 technology—on passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and some buses. In contrast, in the 2013 NHTSA Policy, the NHTSA opted to merely issue recommendations. The NHTSA Policy simply cautions states against permitting the operation of self-driving vehicles at L3 and L4 “for purposes other than testing.” Companies in the autonomous vehicle market must be aware of NHTSA’s framework. Should it see a need, the NHTSA could turn current recommendations into future requirements and prohibitions.

If mandatory regulations are issued, they would likely be based around the level framework defined in the NHTSA Policy.

Bhoomi Patel is a presales & business development expert who works on positioning practical innovation to Automotive and Manufacturing clients. You can contact her at


Satishchandra Nayak is a Business Process expert who works on delivering practical Innovation to Automotive and Manufacturing customers of Capgemini.  You can contact him at

Read the previous issues

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6