Legal Problems Arising Out of Highway Programs. Topic 26-03. Multistate Coordination and Harmonization for AV Legislation

More than two-thirds of states have enacted automated vehicle (AV) legislation, an executive order regarding AVs, or with both. AV laws and regulations may differ with respect to licensing, registration, operator requirements, equipment, insurance, platooning, cell phone use, crash reporting, passenger restrictions (e.g., school buses), and operational restrictions (e.g., weather), among other items. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) plays a crucial role in the development of highway standards that transition into federal and state law. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plays a crucial role in setting safety standards for AVs. Conversely, there are no federal laws regarding vehicle title and registration. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) has guidelines for the safe testing and deployment of AVs that are voluntary and provide recommendations for state law enactments in general rather than specific terms. Differences in state AV laws can lead to friction in state border crossings and may negatively impact transportation safety, how companies deploy, and interstate commerce. Without a consistent deployment framework, AV technology will not be achieved nationwide. U.S. DOT’s Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation, Automated Vehicles 4.0: Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies, and Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan recognized the need for modernizing AV regulations and promoting “regulatory consistency among state, local, tribal and territorial, and international laws and regulations so that AVs can operate seamlessly nationwide and internationally.” The objective of this research is to produce a legal research digest that identifies the legal issues and barriers that exist for the national harmonization of state AV laws. This research should focus on AV deployment rather than testing. Deployment is the operation of a vehicle on public roads by members of the public who are not employees, contractors, or designees of a manufacturer or other testing entity. This research should also focus on the deployment of Level 3 (Conditional Automation), Level 4 (High Automation), and Level 5 (Full Automation) AV as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International with special consideration to the laws and regulations that need to be harmonized to better encourage seamless national deployment and operations of highly automated vehicles. The research should include the following: (1) The role of the federal government in AV legislation with respect to deployment; in particular NHTSA, Surface Transportation Board, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and Department of Homeland Security. The discussion should identify areas of exclusive jurisdiction as well as shared jurisdiction among the federal agencies and the states. (2) A review of AV legislation in all states and the District of Columbia to identify the differences among stations in the following research areas: (a) Vehicle registration (b) Vehicle licensing (c) Licensing of operators and operator education/training requirements (d) Vehicle inspection requirements (e) Liability insurance for owners and operators (f) Traffic laws unique to AV and those that should not be applicable to AV, including distinctions between personal use, commercial freight, use and public transit (g) Tort liability---personal injury and product liability (h) Law enforcement including accident reporting and investigation (i) Cybersecurity (j) Privacy of collected vehicle data   After identifying the differences among states, the research should identify potential conflicts between federal and state law (preemption), interstate commerce implications of state laws with respect to deployment across state lines and technology restrictions, accommodation of persons with disabilities, and areas conducive to reciprocity. A review of model AV legislation that has been prepared by various groups such as the Uniform Law Commission and Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets may be helpful to identify the differences in model AV legislation and how model legislation may have addressed Preemption, Commerce Clause, ADA, and other concerns. This project should build upon, not duplicate, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) work to track AV legislation that has been introduced in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The purpose of the research is not to provide a summary of all state laws but rather to identify the differences between state laws in the research areas. It should consider similar projects, such as the New England CAV Working Group’s project, RFP # T202008003, which is underway and involves performing an assessment of regulations, policies, and practices in Connected/Automated Vehicles (testing and deployment) among six New England states, with the goal to build upon, not duplicate, the efforts of the New England CAV or other similar groups.


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  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $50000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-06, Topic 26-03

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Chisholm-Smith, Gwen

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Texas, Austin

    Center for Transportation Research, 3208 Red River Street
    Austin, TX  United States  78705
  • Principal Investigators:

    Loftus-Otway, Lisa

  • Start Date: 20220725
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230725
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01784999
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-06, Topic 26-03
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Oct 19 2021 12:53PM