The public policy developed in the near term around AVs has the potential to either reinforce or undermine local and regional planning goals. Transportation agencies, local and regional, network operators, private vendors and stakeholders must all prepare to accommodate and benefit from these technologies that will fundamentally change the urban fabric and interaction patterns. Too much regulations can hinder innovation while less regulations can be dangerous. “The actions that cities can take to prepare for CAVs are providing the digital infrastructure required, considering systems for data capture and exploitation, preparing existing infrastructure for CAVs, consider cyber security requirements and taking on a governance and regulatory role. (ATKINS, 2016, p. 9)

Survey results for Texans shows their top concerns and benefits. Such surveys can help shape the policies for the region.


Source: (Bansal and Kockelman, 2017)

Public policy imperatives for AVs
Source: (KPMG, 2016)

Existing policy

USDOT does not currently have a comprehensive plan outlining the overall goals or a plan to monitor progress. According to officials, DOT recently formed a group to lead policy development in the future but has not announced a detailed time frame or scope of work. NHTSA encourages collaboration and communication between State, Federal and local governments and the private sector as AV technology develops. For topics like equity, VMT, technology, land use, safety, GHG, and goods, movement and services. (Transpo group, 2017) “NHTSA has the authority to identify safety defects, allowing the Agency to recall vehicles or equipment that pose an unreasonable risk to safety even when there is no applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS)”. (NHTSA, 2016 p.7)

Federal and State level laws in the Unites States: “NHTSA has outlines definitions for level 0 through 4 of automation. In 2016, NHTSA adopted the SAE J3016 definitions as their standard. These were issued as policy and not regulations. States retain their responsibilities for vehicle licensing, registration, traffic laws and enforcement and motor vehicle insurance and liability. NHTSA continued preemption for interpretations, exemptions, notice, and rule-making and enforcement authority. Manufacturer responsibility to determine their system conforms with SAE J3016”. There may also be a liability to a government or private entity for a data breach or hacking incident. (Kockelman and Loftus-Otway, 2017)

Latest developments California’s pilot: California’s Department of Motor Vehicles was given the green light to allow car manufacturers and tech companies to test and deploy autonomous vehicles without a “natural person” inside the car (as long as they comply with the safety standards). Until now, a human had to be present to take over in case of emergency, a requirement that pushed some Silicon Valley companies to start testing outside their home state. Companies must also provide a ‘law enforcement plan’ explaining how they will respond if their empty car is pulled over by the police. (Financial Times, 2018)

Policy principles for AVs

Policies regarding AVs must inform the following topics:

  1. Mobility, connectivity, access
  2. Social and Environmental equity
  3. Energy, Sustainability, and Research and Development
  4. Safety and Security
  5. Data and decision making
  6. Economics and Fiscal Planning (APA, 2018)

“Credit-based congestion pricing (CBCP) is a novel strategy proposed here. A revenue-neutral policy where road tolls are based on the negative externalities associated with driving under congested conditions, its generated tolls are returned to all licensed drivers in a uniform fashion, as a sort of driving “allowance”.(Kockelman and Kalmanje, 2005 p. 1)


A vehicle driven by a computer on public roads opens the possibility of many insurance and liability issues. California law (CIS 2013) requires 30 seconds of sensor data storage prior to a collision to help establish fault, assuming that the AV has been programmed and tested properly. (Kockelman et al. 2016) “Determine Appropriate Standards for Liability, Security, and Data Privacy Liability, security, and privacy concerns represent substantial barriers to widespread AV technology implementation. These issues should be addressed to give manufactures and investors more certainty in development. Liability standards should strike the balance between assigning responsibilities to manufacturers without putting undue pressure on their product”. (Fagnant and Kockelman, 2015 p. 16). “Without clear legal language saying otherwise, the person using the autonomous vehicle is still considered the driver and would have the same legal obligations as any other driver in the state.” (CSG, 2016 p. 5)

Empty VMT

This travel demand model results suggest that traveler behaviors will change significantly once AVs are available. Over 60% of CAV owners prefer empty repositioning to parking on site, in order to avoid parking costs. However, empty repositioning adds empty-VMT (vehicle-miles traveled) to the network and makes transit use less attractive. Consequently, TxDOT and cities and counties should consider prohibitions on all empty-vehicle travel, unless it is by an operator managed fleet that is held to a maximum share of VMT driven empty (e.g., 10 percent, with lines for additional empty driving) and time- and location dependent (congestion-based) road pricing should be adopted (using the GPS and DSRC that connected vehicles require). SAVs enable rather dramatic changes in vehicle ownership and travel patterns. They can add large numbers of empty, but relatively short, repositioning trips to reach the next travelers. (Kockelman et al. 2016 p. 2)


This is a major concern with the storage of data. Below are various recommendations for cyber security

  1. Transparency
  2. Choice
  3. respect for context
  4. Minimization
  5. De-identification and retention
  6. Accountability

(NHTSA, 2016 p. 19)

“Manufacturers and other entities should have a documented process for testing, validation, and collection of event, incident, and crash data, for the purposes of recording the occurrence of malfunctions, degradation, or failures in a way that can be used to establish the cause of any such issues.” (NHTSA, 2016 p. 17)


Recommendations to position the State as a national leader in using the market to encourage even smarter technological innovation. Short term, midterm and long-term practices for shaping Legislative Policy on CAVs. Specific recommendations for TxDOT Headquarters and Division” (Kockelman et al. 2016)



Source: (Kockelman et al. 2016 p. 66)

“The speed and nature of the transition to a largely AV system are far from guaranteed; they will depend heavily on purchase costs, as well as licensing and liability requirements. While California’s DMV rule making is expected by 2015, Nevada has already processed AV testing licenses (on public roads) for Google, Continental and Audi. These licensing requirements include a minimum of 10,000 autonomously driven miles and documentation of vehicle operations in a number of complex situations”. (Kockelman et al. 2016)

Vehicle registration

Nevada’s legislation contains just 23 lines of definitions and broad guidance to its DMV, while California’s is a more detailed 6 pages and similar direction to their DMV (to establish safety and testing specifications and requirements). Without a consistent (or at least congruent) licensing framework and safety standardization for acceptance, AV manufacturers may face regulatory uncertainty and unnecessary overlap. (Fagnant and Kockelman, 2015 p. 12)


Source: (Bloomberg Aspen, 20xx p. 47)

Initial issues, challenges, questions

  • Legal articles have primarily focused on privacy, liability, cyber security & constitutional protections. State Open records requests all raised as concerns for automated & connected vehicles – No case law yet on these issues
  • NHTSA & FTC have noted they are reviewing hacking and privacy of consumer data in HAVs- Federal statutes also provide penalties under the Computer fraud and Abuse Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Wiretap Act, & Patriot Act.
  • In the privacy realm, three areas have been identified as needing changes to law:
  1. Autonomy privacy (i.e. an individual’s privacy under 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution e.g. illegal search & seizure);
  2. Personal information privacy, and
  3. Surveillance

(Kockelman and Loftus-Otway, 2017 slide 47) 


Near term (through 2021)

  1. Road markings to facilitate lane departure warning, traffic jam assist and platooning.
  2. Signage development for CAVs that detects and interprets road signs.

Mid-term (2021-2031)

  1. Construction/detours for re-routing CAVs when needed.
  2. Lane management: Including the introduction of CAV-only lanes on freeways & city streets.
  3. Nighttime rules of the road for CAVs.
  4. SAV integration for facilitating optimal operation.
  5. Developing & enforcing regulations of empty driving
  6. Roadway design amendments to incorporate CAV design requirements.
  7. Tolling & demand management for alternative revenue generation & congestion control.

Long term (2031 and beyond)

  1. Construction & maintenance design pertaining to construction automation, incident response, etc.
  2. Rural signage & rural road design to transition CAVs from urban environments
  3. Smart intersections allowing for a greater level of optimization than is possible with existing traffic signals.


  1. Charge users for miles traveled in state. Incentivize less congested routes. This will encourage users to choose routes based on value of personal time. Empty driving should be prohibited or strongly limited.
  2. Regulations for vehicle inspections to audit malfunctioning devices. Regulations to monitor the technological advances.
  3. State should work with MPOs & consultants to adopt agent-based models of travel demand and traffic.
  4. “Policies for smarter system management, including incentives for ride-sharing and non-motorized travel, route guidance and credit-based congestion pricing.” (Kockelman and Loftus-Otway, 2017 slide 34)
  5. Each State should have a CAV policy to encourage general adoption. Pilot programs are preferable.” (Kockelman and Loftus-Otway, 2017)
  6. Modernize traffic data. “Develop and implement robust data-sharing requirements for new vehicle technology to improve the quantity and quality of data collected, and to reduce the millions of dollars spent annually on technologically primitive data collection, both from regular traffic operation and from traffic crashes”. (NACTO, 2016 p. 2)
  7. “APA supports efforts to eliminate or sharply reduce municipal and off-street parking requirements with the growing incorporation of AVs into the national transportation system and permit the reuse of parking structures as active land uses”. (APA, 2018 p.2)
  8. “To produce more consistency in the protection of privacy, the legislature could limit the private information on citizens that must be disclosed through the Open Records Act”. (Kockelman et al. 2016 p. 74)