Advanced vehicle control systems, including autonomous functionality, present novel liability considerations for the auto industry. While current law provides a useful framework to assess manufacturer liability, things may change as the “human error” factor is effectively eliminated as an overwhelming cause of vehicle crashes.

Continue Reading Advanced Vehicle Control Systems & Human Error

Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Katie Porter, D-Calif. recently announced that they will be introducing the Booster Seat Safety Act to implement sweeping changes to regulations governing child booster seat safety.

The legislation follows a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which follows a ProPublica report, which was prompted by a class action and another class action, both of which were prompted by a prior products liability lawsuit.

The Act seeks to introduce a number of mandatory reforms. Per the Subcommittee press release:

Continue Reading Congress Proposes Booster Seat Safety Act—What to Know

In early September, Dykema’s Jeff Cox and Dommond Lonnie served as moderators for the DRI’s Strictly Automotive seminar, joining fellow automotive in-house and outside counsel to discuss trending topics in the industry. Jeff’s session, “The Future of Alternative Fuel Vehicles is Already Here,” included a high-level discussion of alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrid, fully electric and hydrogen fuel cell designs, with an update from manufacturers on their short-term and future development, new technology, EV recalls, and a discussion of ways to best defend an EV case at trial. Dommond’s session, “The Future is Electric,” discussed how the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Plan and other developments in the legal landscape are poised to drive widespread acceptance of EV technology.

Continue Reading The Future is Electric

On June 29, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) issued an order requiring autonomous vehicle and advance driver assistance systems manufacturers and operators to report serious crashes within a day of learning of them.  The order applies specifically to manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems (ADS).

Continue Reading NHTSA Requires Reporting of Autonomous or Assisted-Driving Vehicle Crashes

On April 30, 2021, SAE International updated its “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles,” labeled SAE J3016_202104. This updated version cancels and supersedes the June 2018 version, labeled SAE J3016_201806. Its basic framework remains intact with six levels of driving automation, ranging from no driving automation (Level 0) to full driving automation (Level 5).

Continue Reading SAE Updates J3016 Standard for Automated Driving Systems With More Clarity and New Terms and Definitions

As first reported by Reuters on April 22, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) had recently released drafts of an amendment that would allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards that were written for human drivers. Within three years, that figure would rise to 80,000, and after four years, manufacturers could ask NHTSA to increase exemptions beyond 80,000 vehicles. At this time, NHTSA only allows exemptions of up to 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer.

In a statement, Sen. Peters said the amendment would “ensure that the innovation and testing around autonomous vehicles can continue happening safely under the watchful eye of the Department of Transportation.” The Senators had planned to attach the amendment to “The AI Scholarship-for-Service Act,” a bill providing $100 billion for science and technology research and development with the aim of maintaining U.S. competitiveness with China. Continue Reading Proposed Amendment to Advance Self-Driving Cars is Postponed Amidst Rising Safety Concerns

The recent Tesla fire in Houston reportedly took four-plus hours to extinguish completely because of continued flareups. This highlights some of the challenges faced by auto manufacturers (and fire departments) as electric vehicles start to take over the roads, including unique issues related to lithium-ion fires.  Dykema attorneys Deron Wade, Jeff Cox and Rebekah Hudgins recently presented a litigation update addressing: “How Going All Electric May Impact the Future of Fire Litigation” (PowerPoint Slides – starting on Slide 21). The first portion of the update addressed: “A Discussion of Jury Selection and Juror Attitudes in the Post-COVID World.” Continue Reading Hot Topics in Electric Vehicles: Battery Fires

In December 2020, NHTSA posted a significant Notice of Interpretation with important ramifications for manufacturers of autonomous vehicles. The Notice Regarding the Applicability of NHTSA FMVSS Test Procedures to Certifying Manufacturers updates the Agency’s position taken in a 2016 letter to Google on the relationship between FMVSS and AVs with novel designs lacking traditional controls, e.g. a steering wheel, brake pedal, etc.

Traditionally, under NHTSAs self-certification process, manufacturers were not required to test a vehicle’s performance under the specific conditions of a particular FMVSS. Instead, generally speaking, they were permitted to self-certify using simulations or engineering analysis. But despite alternatives to certification through testing by the manufacturer, the FMVSS themselves still provided a means for actually testing vehicles against defined performance criteria. The issue in this recent notice, however, “regards the situation where NHTSA is not able to test a vehicle in accordance with the FMVSS test conditions and procedures due to its design.” As with the previous 2016 Google interpretation, this is particularly significant for vehicles designed without manual controls like a steering wheel or brake pedal. Continue Reading NHTSA Makes a U-Turn on AV Regulation in Latest Notice of Interpretation