The FAVA: Federal Autonomous Vehicle Administration

The FAVA

Marc is a California-licensed attorney and founder of Hoag+Co., the only autonomous vehicles- and urban mobility-focused consulting firm in the world with an international team composed exclusively of PhDs, engineers, attorneys, and startup founders based in San Francisco, Paris, and Amsterdam.

PURPOSE

Establish a three-pronged approach to streamline the safe and rapid deployment and regulation of autonomous vehicles (“AVs”) in the United States.

BACKGROUND

This new era of AVs represents the greatest step change in humanity since the Industrial Revolution. But with this leap comes an almost Sisyphean technological challenge that surpasses even landing man on the moon; and societal, safety, and law and policy issues the likes of which haven’t been seen in human history.

In the United States alone, roughly the same number of people are killed in automobile accidents every month as died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, amounting to nearly 40,000 deaths each year.

Of these, some 95–98% are caused by human error. Were human-driven cars any other pursuit in life, they would have been rendered unlawful years ago, but for the protection our society has bestowed upon the right — rather than privilege, in contrast to Germany, for instance — to operate a motor vehicle; indeed, the very real need for such vehicles in our country due to our relatively sparse public transportation has all but necessitated this reality.

Beyond matters of safety, AVs promise also to entirely redefine how cities and society are designed, built, and operate. Such economically wasteful concepts as “commuting” will no longer plague human productivity and psychological well-being. The aging, disabled, or otherwise unfit to drive will no longer be homebound or reliant upon a driver. The average cost per mile will drop to just pennies per passenger.

But the path to an autonomous future requires two seemingly — but in fact decidedly not — mutually exclusive pursuits:

  1. Testing regulated by the 50 states: Encourage unhindered AV innovation by leaving regulation up to the various states in order to expedite the development of the requisite technological sophistication necessary for AV development; while
  2. Deployment regulated by the Federal government: Ensure the necessary federal regulation via a new FAVA — “Federal Autonomous Vehicle Administration” — to enable the safe and reliable deployment, accountability, and regulation generally of such vehicles and their manufacturers, just as was necessitated for the aviation industry and regulated by the FAA since 1958.

PROPOSAL

Level 4 and Level 5 AVs are more akin to a modern airplane than to a traditional automobile. To wit, an autonomous box with wheels, and an autonomous tube with wings are identical but for differences of geometry, construction, and method of locomotion.

Furthermore, AVs, due to the highly complex nature of the environments in which they operate, mandate with far greater urgency than aviation the need for a federal governing body.

Put another way, if aircraft require federal regulation, then it must be the case that AVs require federal regulation as well.

Accordingly, driverless vehicles must be defined as — and likewise be regulated as — a wholly separate class of vehicle from non-driverless vehicles by an FAVA, inasmuch as aircraft are regulated as a separate class of vehicle from non-aircraft, by the FAA.

Three-pronged approach

The three prongs of this proposal in the near-term (0–10 years) are thus:

  1. A new class of vehicle: Carve out and define an entirely new class of vehicle encompassing only Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles that are mutually exclusive with existing road vehicles.
  2. Level 4 only: Abandon the pursuit of Level 5 vehicles entirely and allow only the deployment of geo-fenced Level 4 vehicles, recognizing them as the “virtual trains” that they are
  3. FAVA: Establish a Federal Autonomous Vehicle Administration (“FAVA”) to regulate — without stifling state-regulated innovation — all aspects of AVs including, without limitation, definitions, design, technology, safety, privacy, deployment, traffic, and road taxes:

Definitions

Establish firm delimiting definitions between “autonomous” and “non-autonomous” vehicles, e.g.:

  1. Non-AV: ADAS-only, up to but not including Level 4 driving capability, i.e., L1, L2, and L3 only; not subject to FAVA regulation
  2. AV: Level 4 and Level 5 only; subject to FAVA regulation

Design

Mandated features and functions, e.g., passenger overrides; anti-trap release latches; etc.

Technology

  1. Baseline standards: Establishing baseline standards for safety including tests for validating alternative technologies (e.g., LiDAR vs camera vision; 905nm vs 1550nm. Analogy: Airbus’ fly-by-wire vs Boeing’s traditional mechanical flight controls)
  2. Urban design: Establish the design, and mandate future development of, streets and infrastructure to be AV-friendly (e.g., QR code signs; V2X communication as needed; etc)

Safety

  1. Technology: Mandate the use of dual, triple, or quadruple redundant hardware and software as needed for various systems, including isolation on independent system buses to ensure no cross-contamination of failed, hacked, or otherwise compromised systems
  2. Society: Establish guidelines and thresholds for safety especially as between the interaction between AVs and non-AVs, and AVs and pedestrians, borrowing from the current interaction as between trains and cars and trains and pedestrians
  3. Criminal behavior: Establish laws governing the unlawful interference with AVs — or using AVs to commit criminal or terrorist acts — as we have for the unlawful interference with trains; aircraft; parking enforcement officers and their vehicles; etc.

Privacy

Establish guidelines and best practices for privacy, and quantifiable thresholds for the management of any vehicle or occupant data, including but not limited to geolocation; personally identifiable information; communication.

Deployment

Fast-track the deployment of Level 4 geo-fenced AVs on dedicated AV-only lanes, streets, or freeway lanes

  1. AV lanes: Expand or share use with dedicated bus and transit lanes; build dedicated AV-only lanes like bike lanes
  2. Streets: Establish “AV-only arteries” through major urban areas
  3. Freeways: Re-purpose carpool lanes for AV use

Traffic

Penalize single- or zero-use AVs to combat traffic (and thus promote AV-sharing), for example, a sliding tax rate inversely related to occupancy, i.e., as vehicle occupancy increases, tax rate decreases, and vice versa.

Road tax

Establish alternative use-base road maintenance taxes anticipating the accelerated deployment of EVs and ridesharing, and resultant decrease in road taxes.

Hoag+Co. — hoagandco.com — @hoagandco on all social media

REFERENCES

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