Sneak Preview into Hogan Lovells White Paper: „The Road to Autonomous Vehicles”

Dr. Patrick Ayad, Partner and Global Leader Mobility and Transportation, Hogan Lovells
Susanne Schuster, Associate, Hogan Lovells

Recent Hogan Lovells White Paper promotes a holistic and flexible regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles

Why this White Paper?

We are advising both traditional and emerging global players in the automotive industry and are increasingly dealing with legal issues of the future. One of our focus areas is the regulatory environment for automated and connected vehicles, a field in which we are closely monitoring the newest legislative developments.

Technology for autonomous vehicles (AVs) will continue to rapidly evolve in the next years and the emergence of new mobility players as well as industry partnerships will result in further transformation of the automotive industry landscape. While widespread testing of AVs is already being conducted on public roads worldwide for several years, the challenge facing regulators is to provide a legal framework to allow for their commercial deployment across Europe. In our recent White Paper, we describe how the EU and Member States are addressing this challenge before providing recommendations to help facilitate the safe, responsible and sustainable deployment of AVs in a timely manner.

This blog article provides a sneak preview into our White Paper. To request a copy of our “Hogan Lovells White Paper: The Road to Autonomous Vehicles” please contact us at and visit industry/automotive for further details and publications.

Current regulatory developments on AVs

Legislative efforts for AVs are well underway. Germany may have been the first country to adopt an Act on Autonomous Driving allowing the regular operation of AVs on public roads up to SAE/ISO Level 4. France recently adopted a Decree allowing the deployment of automated passenger transport services. Other positive examples are set by the Dutch testing regime and the UK Law Commission’s consultations for regulating AVs. The EU Commission also presented a draft for a Regulation in March, which is set to pave the way for an EU-wide ADS type-approval as of mid-2022.

Flexibility is key for ensuring safety and sufficient allocation of responsibilities

The shift from conventional vehicles to AVs is a completely unique and disruptive scenario: it is the first time that not only a vehicle is regulated and type-approved, but at the same time also the driving function performed by the automated driving system (ADS). This calls for a flexible legal framework — an approach that has proven successful for AV testing over many years and which can be built on for regulating the deployment and commercialization of AVs. As a minimum, the existing system should not be undone for AVs only.

A flexible approach should particularly be applied when it comes to the key question of defining which entity (or group of entities) should be responsible for presenting the AV – that is, the base vehicle and the ADS – to a regulator for type-approval, i.e. the “manufacturer”. The decision as to who can apply for type-approval should be primarily subject to the goal of ensuring safety rather than traditional corporate identity. The broad definitions of “manufacturer” which can, e.g., already be found under the type-approval framework Regulation (EU) 2018/858 should at least be retained or taken as a reference. The use of wider and more open terms (e.g., “manufacturer” instead of “vehicle manufacturer”) will prevent misleading interpretations and delay.

The assumption of regulatory responsibility and proof of safety concept should be regarded as the decisive factor for regulations. Expertise is key when it comes to putting AVs onto public roads and needs to be considered when allocating roles and responsibilities for different economic operators. Since the ADS performs the entire dynamic driving task of the AV, the entity that has designed, developed and validated the ADS, including its integration into the vehicle, needs to play a central role in establishing the basis of the type-approval of the vehicle equipped with the ADS. This may be the traditional supplier or vehicle manufacturer, but also a new entrant or any kind of commercial or corporate partnership among industry players in this field. The regulatory framework for AV type-approval must therefore be designed in a way that allows the appropriate parties to assume the roles they have sufficient expertise for to fulfil requisite obligations and guarantee safety. Thus, a broad understanding of the term “manufacturer” needs to be adopted as one part of a broad and holistic concept for regulating AVs across Europe.

Exciting opportunity to regulate the future of AVs

European legislators have an exciting opportunity to regulate the future of mobility including AVs. They can now make use of their pioneering role by setting best practices that may be adopted worldwide and may help avoid significantly divergent approaches across the global regulatory AV framework. Long-term success and sustainability can only be achieved if the legal framework is forward-looking, receptive to future technological developments and avoids ambiguities or inconsistencies in approach and language. Innovation calls for flexibility. Regulating innovation calls for the same.

Hogan Lovells is one of the world‘s leading law firms in its dedication to an industry sector focused approach, enabling us to advise our clients in a sector-focused manner, across practice groups, borders and industries. Our global Automotive industry sector team has one of the largest and most experienced group of lawyers representing both traditional auto motive companies and emerging mobility industry players.

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