The autonomous vehicle industry has faced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside the entire world economy. Our collective understanding of transportation, and human interaction more generally, has significantly shifted. However, despite the industry-wide headwinds significant technological and regulatory progress has been made. We are closer than ever to the widespread use of autonomous vehicles. With that said, barriers and questions remain.
Drawing on the knowledge and resources of its global, multidisciplinary Autonomous Vehicles practice, and building upon our 2020 Global Guide, Dentons’ “Global Guide to Autonomous Vehicles 2021” dissects the front-burner policy issues, legislative and regulatory changes, new legal precedents and leading global trends shaping the sector.
In particular, the guide focuses on the following nine countries whose governments or automotive and technology industries have taken unique approaches to supporting the nascent autonomous vehicles industry:
- South Korea
- United States
The 2021 Global Guide builds upon previous efforts by adding four new leading countries — Hungary, Poland, South Korea and Turkey. For each country, the report examines five key areas: regulatory landscape; driverless vehicle testing and deployment; liability; data privacy and security; and telecommunications and 5G. Finally, we cover the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global autonomous transportation industry.
Lay of the land
The National Transport Commission (NTC) is continuing to work towards creating an end-to-end regulatory system that will allow for the safe, commercial deployment of automated vehicles in Australia. As part of that effort, the NTC is analyzing options and issues in relation to changing driving laws to support automated vehicles. Most recently, the Australian National Transport Commission updated the guidelines for trials of automated vehicles.
In Canada, autonomous vehicles are subject to regulation at all three levels of government: (i) federal; (ii) provincial and territorial; and (iii) municipal. At present, most of the regulatory activity is concentrated at the federal level; in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec; and in a few municipalities. Overall, the government of Canada remains optimistic about the future of autonomous transport while also operating cautiously to ensure its rollout is safe and widely beneficial. Most recently, the Toronto Transit Commission has teamed up with Metrolinx to pilot an autonomous shuttle program, set to run on public roads, as early as Spring 2021.
On February 10, 2020, 11 national ministries including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology etc., collectively promulgated “the Innovative Development Strategy of Intelligent Vehicle.” The strategy proposes that by 2025, the technology innovation, industrial ecology, infrastructure, regulations and standards, product supervision and network security system of China’s standard intelligent vehicles will be formed. By 2035, China’s standard intelligent vehicle system will be fully completed. To this end, the state will issue policies to promote the development of road traffic automated driving, and support the R & D and industrialization of common key technologies of intelligent vehicle infrastructure, as well as the construction of major projects of intelligent transportation and smart city infrastructure.
Overall, the German federal government welcomes further developments in the field of autonomous driving. Its aim is to strengthen the German economic position in this sector. In its “Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving,” which was formulated in 2015, Germany has set the goal of ensuring that Germany remains the “lead supplier for automated and connected vehicles” and becomes the “lead market.” The introduction of autonomous vehicles into public road traffic is to be facilitated in particular, by adapting the legal situation. The effort to amend the legal structure began in earnest in November 2020 when Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer presented a draft bill to create a regulatory scheme for level 4 and level 5 autonomous driving.
It is generally understood that Hungary could be an early location for AV as it has developed a telecom network with high quality coverage for most of the country and also has a developed motorway system. Supporting AI and AV and other groundbreaking technologies and automotive production is at the top of the Hungarian Government’s agenda. The Minister of Technology and Innovation introduced the Artificial Intelligence Strategy of Hungary in September 2020. The strategy envisions the creation of the supportive development environment for research and infrastructure required for autonomous driving technologies. The policy focuses on finishing the ZalaZone test track, but also mentions the development of an agricultural test environment for autonomous agricultural works and the development of smart cities.
In September 2019, the government adopted the “Strategy for Sustainable Development in Transport until 2030” emphasizing the need to strive to have autonomous vehicles on the roads “in the foreseeable future.” The strategy underlines the need to provide support for the effective functioning and competitiveness of the domestic automotive market and the IT market, through setting up the National CAD Contact Point and defining the rules for testing and introducing autonomous vehicles for use in a way that ensures safety and social acceptance for such technology.
The Autonomous Vehicles Act, effective from May 1, 2020 provides necessary support/infrastructure for introduction, spread and safe operation of AVs. The act also aims to regulate necessary requirements in relation to AVs. There are two key parts of the act, designation of autonomous driving safety zones and creation of AV Pilot Zones. In December 2020 guidelines were announced covering ethics, cybersecurity and safety.
Under Turkish law, there is no specific regulation or a competent body to deploy and expand driverless vehicle testing. However, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure’s Action Plan for 2020-2023 plans to complete the establishment of Autonomous Driving Test and Certification Centers where functional and operational tests of autonomous vehicles are performed and certification services are provided.
Having said that, the Type Approval Regulation permits the testing of autonomous vehicles by the manufacturer companies in accordance with the requirements specified in Annex-2 starting from July 6, 2022.
The United States does not have a federal regulatory framework currently in place to address autonomous vehicle testing and deployment. As a result, testing and deployment is regulated by a patchwork of state-centric laws. That patchwork is made up of 40 states and DC that have either passed autonomous vehicle legislation or are operating under executive orders. On Monday, January 11th the Department of Transportation released the Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan. In part, the plan looks back over what the Department has done in relation to AVs during Elaine Chao’s time as the Secretary of Transportation. The document also lays out several steps the Department plans to take going forward. Additionally, The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking requesting comments on a new generation of safety standards for autonomous vehicles. These new efforts will now fall under the jurisdiction of the Biden Administration and pending Senate confirmation, Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee for the Department of Transportation.
Key findings and updates
Governments around the globe, both large and small, must answer the complex technical, legal and regulatory questions plaguing full autonomy. Some of the key 2020 findings across the globe include:
Canada: The federal government has focused on ensuring consistency across all jurisdictions while provincial, territorial and municipal governments are taking steps to promote AV development. In Ontario, companies must obtain consent pursuant to Ontario’s AV Pilot Project regulations in order to put an AV (SAE level 4-5) on the road. In Quebec, companies must obtain consent pursuant to An Act to amend the Highway Safety Code and other provisions to put an AV (SAE level 3-5) on the road, and in other jurisdictions, companies must obtain the Registrar’s consent.
China: On March 9, 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released the recommended draft of national standards for automobile driving automation classification on the official website.
Australia: The Australian National Transport Commission updated the guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in November 2020.
Germany: In November 2020 Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer presented a draft bill for the law on autonomous driving which will create a legal framework for Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles. The government aims to pass the bill by the end of Summer 2021.
Hungary: Hungary’s Minister of Technology and Innovation introduced the Artificial Intelligence Strategy of Hungary in September 2020 for the next 10 years. The strategy envisions the creation of the supportive development environment for research and infrastructure required for autonomous driving technologies. The policy focuses on finishing the ZalaZone test track, but also mentions the development of an agricultural test environment for autonomous agricultural works and the development of smart cities. The policy also covers the analysis and support of development of vehicle-to-vehicle communications environment. The Government committed to create a number of roads implemented with the necessary autonomous technologies by 2025 (see: The artificial intelligence strategy of Hungary https://digitalisjoletprogram.hu/files/6f/3b/6f3b96c7604fd36e436a96a3a01e0b05.pdf – available only in Hungarian).
Poland: In February 2020, the Autonomous Vehicles Working Group was established in Gdańsk, Poland. The inaugural meeting was attended by representatives of the Governor of the region, businesses interested in autonomous vehicles, clusters and scientists. The task force is seeking to create the conditions for development and sale of services and products related to autonomous vehicles.
United States: The most recent action by the Department of Transportation is the release of the Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan. In part, the plan looks back over what the Department has done in relation to AVs during Elaine Chao’s time as the Secretary of Transportation. However, it also lays out several steps the Department plans to take going forward. Of course, the plan laid out in this document is subject to changes brought forth by the Biden administration, specifically Pete Buttigieg who has been nominated to lead the Department of Transportation. The plan provides three broad principles for the Department going forward in regard to autonomous vehicles: protect users and communities, promote efficient markets and facilitate coordinated efforts. Additionally, The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in November requesting comments on a new generation of safety standards for autonomous vehicles. This new advanced notice comes after several research reports, guidance documents, advance notices of proposed rulemakings, and notices of proposed rulemakings relating to the development of vehicles equipped with Automated Driving Systems (ADS). According to the NHTSA, “The framework would objectively define, assess, and manage the safety of ADS performance while ensuring the needed flexibility to enable further innovation.”
Turkey: Most recently, the Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology adopted the Regulation on Type Approval Requirements. The newly introduced Type Approval Regulation sets forth certain type approval requirement for autonomous vehicles. The Regulation will effectively enter into force by 06.07.2022. The Type Approval Regulation mainly aims to harmonize the Turkish legislation with the EU rules. Additionally, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure’s Action Plan for 2020-2023 calls for the completion of Autonomous Driving Test and Certification Centers where functional and operational tests of autonomous vehicles are performed and certification services are provided.
South Korea: South Korea’s Autonomous Vehicle Act became effective on May 1, 2020. The Act provides the necessary support and infrastructure for introduction, spread and safe operation of AVs. The Act also regulates the necessary requirements in relation to AVs. Ultimately, the Act aims to contribute to the improvement of the public’s living conditions and development of the national economy by promoting and supporting the commercialization of AVs.
We hope that Dentons’ Global Guide to Autonomous Vehicles provides you with a closer look at the developing political and legal landscape for autonomous vehicles, and the specific opportunities and challenges across key areas that will define the global mobility revolution.
This guide is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute advice or guidance. If you have questions regarding any of the covered countries, the guide includes the names and contact details of local lawyers and professionals who are able to assist. If you have questions of a more general nature, about the guide or the sector overall, please feel free to contact our Autonomous Vehicles practice leader via email at email@example.com.
Please also check out our Global Autonomous Vehicle Index. This interactive online tool provides effortless access to key self-driving regulations worldwide and allows users to create custom comparison charts across multiple jurisdictions.