Press Release

Press Release

Thu, February 04, 2021

Dentons releases annual Autonomous Vehicles Guide, identifying countries and policies defining the global mobility revolution

Despite a global pandemic, nine countries took major steps toward the commercialization of autonomous vehicles in 2021

WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2021 – Following the economic, cultural and political upheaval of 2020, the roles and expectations around autonomous vehicles (AVs) have significantly shifted. Despite the tumult of the last year, progress has been made both from a technology and regulatory standpoint when it comes to the proliferation of AVs. Four new countries emerged as leaders in the space: Hungary, Poland, South Korea and Turkey.

Drawing on the knowledge and resources of its global, multidisciplinary Autonomous Vehicles practice, Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, today released its annual report, "Global Guide to Autonomous Vehicles 2021." It builds upon the 2020 report and dives into pressing policy issues, legislative and regulatory changes, new legal precedent and leading global trends shaping the sector.

The 2021 guide examines nine countries—the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Poland, South Korea and Turkey—and five key areas: regulatory landscape, driverless vehicle testing and deployment, liability, data privacy and security, and telecommunications and 5G. It also evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global autonomous transportation industry.

Key findings from this year’s global report include:

1.         The Australian National Transport Commission updated the guidelines for AVs in November 2020 and aims to create an end-to-end regulatory system for safe deployment.

2.         In Canada, AVs are subject to regulation at the federal, provincial and territorial and municipal levels.

3.         Last February, China announced that by 2025, its standard intelligent vehicle ecology will be fully formed. This entails technology innovation, industrial ecology, infrastructure, regulations and standards, product supervision and a network security system.

4.         Germany set a goal of ensuring that it remains the “lead supplier for automated and connected vehicles” and becomes the “lead market” for AVs.

5.         Hungary could be an early location for AVs as the country developed a telecommunications network with high-quality coverage for nearly the entire country.

6.         Poland outlined a strategy to have AVs on the roads “in the foreseeable future.” The plan defines the rules for testing and introducing autonomous vehicles and emphasizes the need to provide support of the domestic automotive market and the IT market.

7.         In May 2020, South Korea enacted the Autonomous Vehicles Act, which provides necessary support and infrastructure for the introduction, spread and safe operations of AVs.

8.         Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure’s Action Plan for 2020–2023 plans to complete the establishment of Autonomous Driving Test and Certification Centers.

“In a year defined by change, it’s promising to see so many countries making strides when it comes to fully realizing autonomous vehicles,” said Eric Tanenblatt, Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation and leader of Dentons’ Autonomous Vehicles group. “The benefits of autonomy were put front and center amid the pandemic. Not losing sight of developments and innovation in this area—and how it can positively impact mobility, health care and supply chain needs—is crucial to building a better, safer and more accessible society. As the world shifts into recovery, expect to see the focus on autonomous vehicles, especially autonomous fleets, accelerate.”

In the United States specifically, findings include:

1.         The United States does not have a federal regulatory framework in place to address AV testing and deployment. As a result, these efforts are regulated by a patchwork of state laws.

2.         On January 11, 2021, the Department of Transportation released an Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan. The plan looks back over what the department has done in relation to AVs during former Secretary Elaine Chao’s tenure and sets goals for the phase of federal AV regulation.

3.         The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a final rule adapting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for protecting vehicle occupants that will exempt certain autonomous delivery vehicles from crashworthiness standards. The rule also changes crashworthiness standards for other types of autonomous vehicles.

4.         The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a new plan to study how the commercial transport industry intends to integrate autonomous trucking.

5.         Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have either passed AV legislation or are operating under executive orders. Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Utah and Washington introduced AV-related legislation in 2020.

6.         Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island do not currently have any AV legislation or executive orders enacted.

7.         For additional US-specific findings, visit: link.

As with every industry, AVs were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest positive and negative implications across countries include:

1.         Australia: The shift to remote working led to a drastic reduction in traffic congestion and greater travel efficiency.

2.         Canada: AV companies operating in the country were negatively affected, resulting in layoffs, delays in product launches and setbacks to the work of pilot programs.

3.         Hungary: No specific measures for AVs were introduced in 2020.

4.         Poland: The pandemic accelerated the implementation of autonomous technologies.

5.         South Korea: COVID-19 has sped up AV legislation and adoption.

6.         Turkey: The outbreak completely changed transportation priorities here. Most Turkish companies investing in solutions for transportation shifted their efforts to developing self-disinfection systems and tracking technologies, taking attention (and capital) away from AVs.

7.         United States: Personal vehicle ownership gained appeal and the use of ride-sharing dropped; AV developers have refocused their efforts on alternative autonomous applications or reinvent vehicles entirely.

Dentons boasts the world’s first and largest multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional autonomous vehicle practice, with the experience and footprint necessary to provide sound legal, technical and policy advice to automakers and manufacturers, technology startups, fleet operators and auto liability insurers or finance companies. View the full 2021 Global AV report here.


About Dentons

Dentons is the world's largest law firm, connecting talent to the world's challenges and opportunities in more than 75 countries. Dentons' legal and business solutions benefit from deep roots in our communities and award-winning advancements in client service, including Nextlaw, Dentons’ innovation and strategic advisory services. Dentons' polycentric and purpose-driven approach, commitment to inclusion and diversity, and world-class talent challenge the status quo to advance client and community interests in the New Dynamic.