self-driving cars

In this article, Om Shivam discusses the Legal framework regulating self-driven cars under the Indian Law.

Due to the recent incident killing of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg by  Self-driving car, it has brought attention to Self-driving car. So let us understand what Self-driving car is and the legal framework which regulates it around the world.

What is Self Driving Cars?

Self-driving Cars which are commonly known as Autonomous Vehicle are the cars which can drive themselves without any human effort. The trials for the Self-driving cars had begun in 1920s but the Autonomous Vehicle appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab and ALV project in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich’s Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987, thereafter, numerous research has been done by various automobiles companies on the subject of Autonomous Vehicle.

How do these vehicle work?

The Autonomous vehicle uses sensors to perceive the environment and it uses various techniques to perceive the surroundings like GPS, laser light, odometry and computer vision. All the information which is collected from the sensors or the techniques is used for navigation of vehicle or prevention of collision from any obstacle on the path.

What Technology they use?

Self-driving Car uses the Bayesian Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) algorithm which uses various sensors for current location estimate and offline map updates. Nowadays, these vehicles are being developed with deep learning or neural networks wherein Neural Network, Neurons are simulated from the environment and which activates the network. These networks make a decision in accordance to the huge amount of data extracted from the real-life driving scenarios; these Networks are activated and learn to perform the best course of action, whereas deep learning is used to for programming these vehicles as well to make a decision in the real-life Scenario.

What are the Regulations on these vehicles?

There are a number of legislations that have been passed in the states of the USA for which in 2016 the online database has been made.

  1. Nevada

  • The State of Nevada became the first state to authorize the operation of the autonomous vehicle in the year 2011, directed the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to adopt rules for license endorsement and for operation including a safety standard, testing, insurance.
  • In 2011 another bill in Nevada with name SB 140 was brought which prohibit the use of cell phone while driving but it allows the user to use the cell phone that is legally operating the autonomous vehicle.
  • In the same year, another bill with the name in SB 313 which was regarding autonomous vehicle states that autonomous vehicle should meet a certain condition of the human operator, which requires proof of insurance. It also prohibits the registration of the autonomous vehicles, tested or operated in state until it meets certain conditions.
  • The bill with name SB 313 also provides the immunity to the manufacturer of the car whose vehicle has been converted into an autonomous vehicle from any liability.
  • Another bill with the name AB 69 was introduced in year 2017 which defines the term “driver-assistive platooning technology”, “fully autonomous vehicle” and “automated driving system” which allows the driver-assistive platooning technology on the highway in the state, platooning technology is the method of increasing the capacity of the roads so here by using this technology the distance between the vehicle is reduced. This bill also protects the manufacturer of the vehicle from any liability, it also requires the reporting of any crash to the department of motor vehicle within 10 days if the crash result in personal injury or property damage greater than $750 and it also allow the fine of $2,500 to be imposed for violations of laws and regulation relating to autonomous vehicle, further it allow DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to adopt rules regarding the autonomous vehicles, it also defines the ‘driver’ in case of autonomous vehicle, which is the person who causes automated driving system to engage. It also clarifies that the distance requirement between vehicles is not applied to the vehicle which uses the platooning technology.

2. Florida

  • In 2012 legislation passed in Florida regarding an autonomous vehicle, the prime motive of legislator behind the legislation was to promote and encourage the safe development, testing and operation of motor vehicle with autonomous technology on a public road of the state. In the year 2016, Florida through legislation allowed the operation of an autonomous vehicle on public roads and eliminates requirement relating to testing of autonomous vehicle and presence of a driver in the vehicle.
  • In Florida bill of the year 2016 with name HB 7027, it allows the use of an autonomous vehicle on public roads by an individual with a valid driver licence, and it eliminates the number of provisions required for testing purpose and also the requirement of driver in the vehicle to meet applicable federal safety standards and regulations.
  • In the same year bill with HB 7061 defined the autonomous technology and driver assistive truck platooning technology.

3. California

  • In California the bill with name AB 1592 (2016), it authorizes the transport authority to conduct the pilot project for the testing of autonomous vehicle which is not equipped with steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle, these are to be conducted at specified locations and at specified vehicle.
  • In 2017 the bill with name SB 1, encourage the California Department of transportation and cities and counties to use their fund for developing the infrastructure which supports the modern technologies like Autonomous Vehicle System.

4. Georgia

  • In Georgia, in the year 2017 bill with name HB472 defines the coordinated platoon as a group of motor vehicles traveling in the same lane utilizing vehicle-vehicle communication technology to automatically coordinate the movement of the vehicles.
  • In the same year bill with name SB 219 exempt a person operating an automated motor vehicle with the automated driving system engaged from the requirement to hold a driver licence and it also specifies the condition of insurance and registration requirements to be met for a vehicle to operate without a human driver.

5. New York

  • In New York bill with name SB 2005 in 2017 allows the commissioner of a motor vehicle to approve autonomous vehicle test and demonstrations. It also requires the supervision from the state police for testing including the insurance of five million dollars.

6. Pennsylvania

  • In Pennsylvania bill with name SB 1267 allows the fund of $40,000,000 for intelligent transportation system applications such as autonomous and connected vehicle-related technology.

7. South Carolina

  • In South Carolina bill with name HB 3289, specifies that minimum following distance laws for vehicles does not apply to the operator of a non-leading vehicle traveling in a platoon.

8. Wisconsin

  • In Wisconsin bill with name SB 695 defines ‘platoon’ as a group of an individual motor vehicle traveling in a unified manner at electronically coordinated speeds.

And in other states like Ohio, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, Idaho, Hawai, Arizona, Delaware governor have issued the executive order regarding the autonomous vehicle.

9. Europe

If we look on European countries for the legal regulations regarding the autonomous vehicles, the situation is shocking despite having the countries which are major automotive industry partners like France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, they do not have any appropriate legislation regarding the autonomous vehicle.

However, the test is been carried on the basis of the Ad-hoc legal permits. But these European member countries except UK and Spain have ratified the Vienna Convention which is a multilateral treaty of the United Nations dealing with general traffic law and until 23 March 2016 any member who is a signatory to the convention required a human driver in control of the car at all times details of which can be read in Article 8 par. 1.5 and Article 13 par.1.In same year paragraph which is called ‘5bis’ was added to Article 8 of the convention which states that system can be overridden by the driver or should fulfill the requirements of ECE regulations. As far as the development pace of the automotive industry is concerned, in Europe it is fast but now there is a great challenge for the insurance companies, manufacture, and lawmaker to address the issue of regulation of autonomous vehicle.

10. India

In India, the main regulations which are been used in case of Motor Vehicle are the Motor Vehicle Act, 1939 and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Motor Vehicle Act, 1939, which talks about the mandatory age required for driving car, responsibility of the vehicle, registration of the car etc. Whereas liability which arises due to the negligence, manufacturing defects, design defects, unfair trade practice are dealt with the provision of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

What is the present scenario of law in India?

Currently there is no as such legislation which deals with the Autonomous Vehicle. It is not like that the concept of Autonomous Vehicle is foreign to India, the work has already been started in Indian Automobile industry, even the research group of 30 from IIT Kharagpur launched a start-up for an ambitious project known as Auro, there mission is to replace the ‘manually driven’ cart and buses to ‘driverless shuttle’ which will be used in university and company campuses etc.

How to address the issue of Autonomous Vehicle?

For addressing the issue of Autonomous vehicle in relation to the Indian Scenario, there is necessity to address the others law which are also going to play their role. Like In case of Privacy & Confidentiality, which also involve the sensitive personal data so the role of Information Technology Act, 2000, is needed to address and also as this technology is prone to hacking so Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, is needed to be addressed. Other law which also holds importance is Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the purpose of this bill is to introduce regulation, acquisition, dissemination, publication, and distribution of geospatial information; this bill is still in the discussion stage but the issue of driverless car is  to be addressed by this bill also.

The other major challenges would be to deal with the issue of existing applicable provision of the Motor Vehicle Act and Consumer Protection Act, by bringing the autonomous vehicle under the legal framework there would be necessity to also amend these two laws so that it can be applied properly.


Development is an essential part of the society, and in this era where transformation by the technology in every field is at a very fast pace, a much-needed effort is required for the development of the law of the country. There is an exponential growth in the technology but when we look at the legal regulation, it is much slower as required. The effort is needed from the lawyers who are having knowledge of technology as well law for collaboration with the government in making the regulation for all these technologies. Hence, there should be a legal regulation regarding the technology and its nature should be such that it can evolve with the development of technology and it should not hamper the technological advancement in the country.

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