Autonomous & Connected Vehicle Policy: Recent News, Updates and Reports

It seems that each day brings a barrage of new articles on what’s going on with autonomous and connected vehicle policy around the country. Just in the two months since we convened the CSG Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Policy Academy for a group of state policymakers in Detroit (check out the meeting archive with extensive summaries of each policy academy session), there have been plenty of developments. Here’s a collection of some of the recent news, state updates and reports on this multifaceted, rapidly evolving transportation topic.

Recent News

  • Streetsblog USA weighed in recently on legislation advancing through Congress (HR 3388) that the authors of the piece argue could tie the hands of local governments when it comes to regulating self-driving vehicles on city streets. The website notes that “the bill would also prohibit state and local governments from regulating the ‘design, construction, mechanical systems, hardware and software systems, or communications systems’ of autonomous vehicles. That would render the more hands-on regulations in states like California obsolete.” Auto and tech companies argue the legislation is needed to create a single, national framework and avoid a patchwork of laws and regulations around the country. Speakers at the CSG policy academy in June noted the slow, complex regulatory regime California has put in place.
  • Some automakers may be starting to worry anew about how autonomous vehicles could impact their bottom lines, Reuters reported.
  • Labor unions are calling for a slowdown in the push to allow autonomous vehicles on the nation’s roads anticipating their impact particularly on driving jobs, Bloomberg reported. For more on the labor and jobs issues, see here and here.
  • Officials for the ridehailing company Lyft said recently even as the company begins to offer driverless rides, it will continue to operate as a “hybrid network,” with many human drivers. Lyft director of public policy Prashanthi Raman was among the panelists at one of our policy academy sessions in Detroit.
  • Quartz Media looked at how 33 companies pursuing work on self-driving cars are connected. Curbed also had a recent piece on who’s doing what with driverless cars and what it all means for urban mobility.

State Updates

  • Arizona: The Detroit News reported that Phoenix is emerging as a rival to Michigan for testing of self-driving cars thanks to limited regulation, mild winters and predictable street grids.
  • California: KQED, the PBS and NPR affiliate in Northern California, recently talked with Malcolm Dougherty of Caltrans about the challenges California will face in paving the way for self-driving cars.
  • Georgia: Atlanta magazine this month pondered the question of whether the city is ready for driverless cars.
  • Illinois: A recent broadcast of WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” included a discussion on the future of driverless transportation with a planner from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency of Planning, the founder of an Illinois-based company called Innova EV which is working on automating electric vehicles, and a marketing manager for the Chicago-founded mapmaking company Here.
  • Michigan: The city of Detroit, which hosted our June policy academy, recently welcomed an international autonomous vehicle test, The Detroit News reported. Engineers last month drove two cars with self-driving capabilities through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to Ontario and crossed back into the U.S. at Port Huron. The New York Times also recently profiled the city of Ann Arbor as a hub for driverless car technology. Policy academy attendees had an opportunity to tour the Mcity autonomous vehicle test facility in Ann Arbor.
  • Minnesota: The Star Tribune reported last month on how planners in the state are starting to envision the autonomous vehicle future and its impacts. Also, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced they’ll begin testing an autonomous bus in the state’s cold, snowy climate this winter, Metro Magazine reported.
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry issued an “executive instruction” last month directing city agencies to promote self-driving vehicles in the city, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • Ohio: The Dayton Daily News reported recently on how the state is becoming a hub for autonomous vehicle technology activity. For more on what’s going on in Ohio, see here and here.
  • Oregon: The Portland City Council voted to move forward with an autonomous vehicle pilot and to invite companies to submit proposals for testing on Portland streets by the end of the year, Next City reported.
  • Rhode Island: The Rhode Island Department of Transportation issued a request for information back in June asking companies involved in autonomous and connected vehicle technology to identify opportunities for partnerships and provide other information, Equipment World’s Better Roads noted.
  • Nevada: Tesla is developing a long-haul, electric, semi-truck that can drive itself and operate as part of a platoon, Reuters reported. The company is talking with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles about conducting road tests.
  • Virginia: The Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved a three-year agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Transurban, the company that operates the I-95 and I-495 Express Lanes, that will allow the testing of autonomous and connected vehicles on those facilities, WTOP reported. For more on what’s happening in Virginia, see here and here.

Recent Reports

  • Governing magazine recently looked at how autonomous vehicles could constrain city budgets due to their impact on revenues from parking, parking fines, traffic citations and other factors.
  • The University of Oregon’s Sustainable Cities Initiative considers “The Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles and E-Commerce on Local Government Budgeting and Finance” in a recent report.
  • “The Road to the Autonomous Truck” got an extended look in a recent Transport Topics piece.
  • The Deloitte Center for Government Insights has a new report out that defines some questions federal regulators, researchers and developers may need to think about as they try to shape the ecosystem for self-driving cars in a direction that improves transportation and public safety.
  • British insurers are concerned about the “autonomous ambiguity” presented by Level 3 vehicles already or soon to hit the market that will perform many driving tasks but that still require a driver be prepared to take the wheel at the first sign of trouble, Wired magazine reported. Insurers say the vehicles could make driving riskier in the short-term if drivers don’t fully understand how the technology works or its limitations. For more about the insurance implications, see this summary of one of the sessions from the June policy academy.
  • The independent think tank RethinkXL predicts in a recent report that by 2031, 95 percent of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be in on-demand, autonomous, electric vehicles owned by mobility-as-a-service companies, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • McKinsey & Company looked at “The future(s) of mobility: How cities can benefit” in another recent report.
  • A study commissioned by Intel said the self-driving industry will add an estimated $7 trillion annually to the global economy by 2050,
  • USA Today looked at the cities vying to become hubs of self-driving technology. The newspaper also examined which states are most ready for self-driving cars.

Further Reading

  • In advance of the June policy academy in Detroit, we provided attendees a reading list of key articles and reports. You can find that reading list here.