Regulatory Standards Hold Key to CAV Development

Quite often and in many industries, such as financial services, there is call for the reduction of regulation and the liberalization of market.

In the case of connected and autonomous vehicles the opposite is true, and it has to be so. The key issue is the lack of regulatory harmonization across borders, making the development of what Magnus Gunnarsson, head of connected vehicle at Ericsson, calls ‘global cars’ much trickier to achieve.

He points out that the automotive industry is global. Vehicles may be engineered in one country and then manufactured in another part of the world before being shipped and sold in a third nation. “With the increase of local data protection regulations, the environment is getting somewhat more complicated and we are, therefore, designing our technology in a way that can combine the automaker’s need for global service roll-outs with the regulatory needs for local data management,” he says.

Domestic differences

Domestic considerations can’t be negated. For example, from the United States to Rome and Shanghai, the legislative and regulatory requirements often create gaps that impact multi-cloud, multi-regional reality of connected vehicles.

Gunnarsson, considering the extent government regulation, believes it is actually challenging connected and autonomous Vehicle (CAV) development: “Focusing on the connected vehicle side – government regulation is absolutely something we relate our product and business development towards.”

This means that Ericsson is developing its ‘next generation portfolio’ of network and services technologies “around assumptions that local data protection regulation will be further amplified, [requiring] a heightened need for keeping data and within certain geographical areas”.

Mixed potential impact

Bernd Reichert senior-vice president of ADAS at AEye also sent us his views on the matter of the impact of regulation on CAV development to TU-Automotive. He says government regulation “can help accelerate and dampen the adoption of technologies like autonomous vehicles”. With regard to safety, governments can regulate to incentivize and mandate vital safety measures and features.

He adds: “The challenge is that governments around the globe regulate autonomous technology differently, so suppliers must ensure all requirements are met for each customer market. This has always been the case with automotive products delivered to OEMs. The difference now is that autonomous vehicles (AVs) have shifted responsibility for vehicle operation away from the driver, resulting in a wider variance of requirements to meet and keep up with from country to country.”

Nathaniel Giraitis, design strategy principal at digital innovation consultancy Futurice, argues that CAVs represent a complex sector, and as they bring some potentially serious risks to the individuals, saying that it’s right for regulations to challenge the industry “to be the best version of itself”. This includes addressing concerns such as safety, driver and manufacturer responsibility as well as insurance liabilities, data privacy, the environment, urban planning, and cybersecurity. So, he thinks there will be some unprecedented legislative hurdles to overcome. Despite this he remarks: “The best regulators are not regressive or restrictive, however, they are champions and catalysts of change.”

Regulatory sandboxes

To trial new innovations, Giraitis says regulatory sandboxes can be used to test them in the real world without the usual rules. He explains: “In the context of auto innovation, the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) is helping the industry develop the optimal balance of innovation, safety, and regulation in the CAV sector. The CCAV, for example, was a core partner in Aurrigo’s four-day autopod and auto-shuttle self-driving trial in the Northeast. Together with Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, it has also proved that it is possible for a vehicle to shift between manual and autonomous mode in a live trial.”

Potential advantages

From the data management and protection perspective, it appears that some regulations can both be a challenge and offer potential advantages, such as the offer of a competitive advantage created by complying with, for example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Giraitis explains that compliance could in fact be a key and vital selling point by reassuring customers that their personal data is safe to the point that it may inspire trust in the CAV sector.

He isn’t convinced that personal data privacy is the challenge to CAV uptake because most consumers aren’t as aware of GDPR as people working in industry. That said it does touch most people in the European Union and even with the UK’s version, it has an impact there too. Generally, people are aware of data protection – even if it’s not GDPR. Yet most people are reasonably comfortable with data sharing whenever it’s of benefit to themselves.

Fostering trust

Still, Giraitis believes that focus on GDPR should be about creating a selling point: “I believe trust is born from a personal connection, or branding that makes a personal connection, and so people trust Apple more than Facebook for this reason, even though they both exist under the same regulatory constraints. If the EU doubled down on positioning GDPR as a kind of trust kitemark (with a consumer-friendly brand logo, perhaps), it might emerge as a competitive advantage. But in the meantime, I would expect the perceived authenticity of individual auto brands around the handling of consumer data to deliver a real competitive advantage.”

With an increase in the use of cameras, sensors, and microphones for security reasons in public CAVs, he nevertheless suggests that there will be a need for reassurance about how personal data is being used, by whom and for what benefit to the consumer to ensure that it is only be used for specific purposes. In his view this is when GDPR could come into its own.

Enabling collaboration

Meanwhile, Gunnarsson admits that he has thought of GDPR as being a competitive advantage, and adds: “In general clear regulations, as with the introduction of GDPR in 2018, enables the industry to jointly focus on adapting and fulfilling the regulations, it gives clear boundaries and also introduces a ‘common language’ across the value chain.”

Reichert also argues that GPDR permits consistent governance across regions and claims that it will present an advantage when managing the terabytes of data an autonomous vehicle will product on a daily basis. “A monolithic organization like the EU is easier to deliver against than the 50 state governments in the United States and will allow for the optimal design of data management from the very beginning,” he suggests.

Through regulatory harmonization, unlike in the US, stakeholders in Europe will be able to co-operate at a regional level, which Reichert believes will create an environment that will be favorable to CAV development.

This includes the European New Vehicle General Safety Regulation, “which introduces a range of mandatory advanced driver assist systems to improve road safety and establishes the legal framework for the approval of automated and fully driverless vehicles in the EU,” he explains. It came into force on 6th July 2022, and it is set to make the EU an attractive market for connected and autonomous vehicle development in his view.

So, with data central to e-mobility, connected and autonomous vehicles, how should automakers work with governments and regional authorities to address the challenge posed by regulation? Reichert responds with an emphasis on prioritizing the safety of pedestrians and vehicle passengers. He says this is because “autonomy is a non-starter if safety is ever compromised.”

Optimizing implementation

He encourages carmakers to look beyond regulating a vehicle’s performance and work with governments to create the infrastructure that will optimize successful implementation. This starts with safety, as well as with the need to find a resolution to the legal and insurance questions over liability whenever a vehicle is in autonomous mode, which may raise the bar on what’s permissible.

“We’ve seen this with Mercedes taking on liability and Volvo bundling insurance with their offering,” he reveals before commenting on the criticality of connect and automated mobility protocols for achieving autonomous driving. For them to be the most effective they can be, the protocols need to be established between auto manufacturers, governments, regional authorities, and special interest groups.

This is already happening with EU initiatives such as the Telecom Alliance, 5G Automotive Alliance, and Car2Car Consortium, and in the UK through the CCAV. It’s clear that government involvement, legislation, funding, and regulation can have a huge influence on CAV development. There are, nevertheless, some regional and domestic challenges that could be overcome by increasing legislative and regulatory harmonization to embolden these collaborations.

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