To encourage autonomous vehicle research and development, nations across the world are formulating laws and policies connected with it. These policies are intended to address privacy, security, liability, and safety associated with autonomous vehicles. Some of the countries that have begun with the government-level discourse regarding autonomous vehicles are the US, China, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore, etc. All these countries might not be on the same page when it comes to the regulation process. Below, we have brief compilation of autonomous vehicle policies that exist in some of the countries.
1. United States
In US, states have their own autonomous vehicle driving legislation. More than 30 states have passed AV legislation and issued executive orders in the last one year. Moreover, some of the states have already declared initiatives to welcome self-driving vehicles on roads. Amongst them, California introduced autonomous vehicle testing policies in 2014, allowing autonomous vehicle to run on the road in the presence of the driver. Recently, California has allowed fully autonomous vehicles with no driver to run on public roads. Likewise, Arizona has allowed autonomous vehicles to drive on roads without drivers. There are more than 600 autonomous vehicles on Arizona’s roads. Other states taking key steps are Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
China has started bringing legislation and permits associated with autonomous driving, particularly in first-tier cities. In 2020, Shanghai published its self-driving licenses to allow testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The tests are however restricted only to a 5.6 km (3.5 miles) stretch of a public road. Shanghai is termed as “China’s first Smart Network” and “Autonomous Driving Pilot City”. Also last year in 2020, Beijing’s Municipal Traffic Commission declared that their first autonomous driving test track will be made in suburban Yizhuang. Besides this, Hangzhou will make an autonomous driving test track near Alibaba’s main campus. China’s autonomous vehicle industry hub of Guangzhou lately permitted JingChi.ai and Pony.ai for testing autonomous vehicles in some districts. Chongqing has also revealed a plan a month back to create a huge open road test area which would include cities, mountains, highways, tunnels and bridges. The local government also implemented the Chongqing Autonomous Vehicle Road Test Management Rules to improve testing on local roads. A year back, the Shenzhen Bus Group’s “Smart Driving Bus System” was also launched on a restricted 1.2 km route.
3. The Netherlands
The autonomous vehicle road testing got approved by The Netherlands’ Council of Ministers in 2015. They keep updating the policies and recently allowed testing of autonomous vehicles in the absence of a driver. About €90 million is spent by the Dutch government for adaptation of around 1,000 traffic lights in the country that can interact with autonomous vehicles. The WEpods were also deployed in the central Dutch city a few years ago. WEpods are the “world’s first electric driverless shuttle” that function on fixed lanes across the city and can hold 6 people. It has about 30,000 electric vehicle charging points.
About five years ago, the Swedish government started taking interest in autonomous vehicle testing and carried out trials at almost all levels of automation on Swedish roads. The Road Transportation Authority of Sweden, in July 2017 authorized permits and supervised trials in accordance with the law. Last year, Volvo came up with a “Drive Me project” and as a part of this project, many people were given self-driving cars for use in their day-to-day lives. The project was introduced with an objective to get the user’s feedback on Volvo’s technology. Volvo also signed a US$300 million deal with Uber and offered 24,000 flagship self-driving-ready Volvo XC90 SUVs.
Germany has introduced polices to allow automakers to test autonomous vehicles on road. As per the policies formulated, the drivers can withdraw their hands from the wheels and look at their mobile phones while driving the car. However, a driver should be focussed enough to gather control on the wheels so as to handle any emergency. Germany’s legislation necessitates a black box, a data recorder composed to record system data and actions for inspection in the case of mishaps or accident.
6. United Kingdom
The Transport Department of the UK permitted semi-autonomous vehicles to run on both rural and urban roads in the year 2013. Later, in 2016, they addressed the importance of establishing “new laws to make the UK ready to pioneer driverless cars.” A year ago, the Government of UK enacted a bill to draw up insurance and liability policies linked with autonomous vehicles. The government of the United Kingdom has an objective of wider adoption of autonomous vehicles in the next 2 years.
UK being a non signatory of Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, it had advantage in approving bills related to autonomous vehicle manufacturers and tech startups.
Singapore is leading Asian country to embrace autonomous driving. About five years ago, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) approved 6 km of test routes. The distance was doubled in the next consecutive year. In the year 2017, LTA extended its AV testbed to other neighbouring areas including Singapore Science Parks 1 and 2, the National University of Singapore, and Buona Vista, thus adding a distance of 55 km to current autonomous vehicle trial routes. Singapore’s Government has passed legislation acknowledging the fact that motor vehicles don’t need a human driver and thus allowing the execution of autonomous vehicles on roadways.
8. South Korea
Home base of Samsung, Hyundai and LG. South Korea permits the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads with issued licences. It is also making a separate artificial town for testing of an autonomous vehicle. Last year, The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of South Korea declared the opening of K-City. It would be the biggest town model created for self-driving vehicle experimentation. K-City presents with about 35 different driving conditions such as toll gates, pedestrian and train crossings, potholes, construction sites and costs about US$11 billion.
9. New Zealand
New Zealand supports testing of semi and fully autonomous vehicles. New Zealand has no particular legal provisions for cars to have drivers. Recently, the country also adopted an autonomous flying taxi trial for Kitty Hawk, “the Silicon Valley-based startup run by Google founder Larry Page”.
In order to work towards their goals, The government of Japan has partnered with Dynamic Map Planning to create a digital infrastructure and 3D maps of the nation’s roadways required for autonomous vehicles to move in Tokyo. The high-definition 3D maps will consist of traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and road signs. These when coupled with the data from the vehicle’s sensors will allow vehicles to function with greater accuracy. Japan has comparatively more per capita patents on AV technology than any other nation.
As per the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 do not allow the operation of fully autonomous vehicles in India. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has provision for testing of autonomous vehicles. For promotion of innovation, it says- “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, in order to promote innovation and research and development in the fields of vehicular engineering, 30 mechanically propelled vehicles and transportation in general, the Central Government may exempt certain types of mechanically propelled vehicles from the application of the provisions of this Act.” .
Some of the prominent local automotive players like Tata Motors and Mahindra have begun working on autonomous vehicle technology.