The National Academies

NCHRP 20-06/Topic 26-03 [Active]

Multistate Coordination and Harmonization for AV Legislation
[ NCHRP 20-06 (Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $50,000
Staff Responsibility: Gwen Chisholm Smith
Research Agency: The University of Texas at Austin
Principal Investigator: Lis Loftus-Otway
Effective Date: 7/25/2022
Completion Date: 7/25/2023
Comments: Research in Progress

More than two-thirds of states have enacted automated vehicle (AV) legislation, an executive order regarding AVs, or with both. AV laws and regulations may differ with respect to licensing, registration, operator requirements, equipment, insurance, platooning, cell phone use, crash reporting, passenger restrictions (e.g., school buses), and operational restrictions (e.g., weather), among other items. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) plays a crucial role in the development of highway standards that transition into federal and state law. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plays a crucial role in setting safety standards for AVs. Conversely, there are no federal laws regarding vehicle title and registration. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) has guidelines for the safe testing and deployment of AVs that are voluntary and provide recommendations for state law enactments in general rather than specific terms. Differences in state AV laws can lead to friction in state border crossings and may negatively impact transportation safety, how companies deploy, and interstate commerce. Without a consistent deployment framework, AV technology will not be achieved nationwide.
U.S. DOT’s Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation, Automated Vehicles 4.0: Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies, and Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan recognized the need for modernizing AV regulations and promoting “regulatory consistency among state, local, tribal and territorial, and international laws and regulations so that AVs can operate seamlessly nationwide and internationally.”
The objective of this research is to produce a legal research digest that identifies the legal issues and barriers that exist for the national harmonization of state AV laws. This research should focus on AV deployment rather than testing. Deployment is the operation of a vehicle on public roads by members of the public who are not employees, contractors, or designees of a manufacturer or other testing entity. This research should also focus on the deployment of Level 3 (Conditional Automation), Level 4 (High Automation), and Level 5 (Full Automation) AV as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International with special consideration to the laws and regulations that need to be harmonized to better encourage seamless national deployment and operations of highly automated vehicles. The research should include the following:
  • The role of the federal government in AV legislation with respect to deployment; in particular NHTSA, Surface Transportation Board, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and Department of Homeland Security. The discussion should identify areas of exclusive jurisdiction as well as shared jurisdiction among the federal agencies and the states.


  • A review of AV legislation in all states and the District of Columbia to identify the differences among stations in the following research areas:
    • Vehicle registration
    • Vehicle licensing
    • Licensing of operators and operator education/training requirements
    • Vehicle inspection requirements
    • Liability insurance for owners and operators
    • Traffic laws unique to AV and those that should not be applicable to AV, including distinctions between personal use, commercial freight, use and public transit
    • Tort liability---personal injury and product liability
    • Law enforcement including accident reporting and investigation
    • Cybersecurity
    • Privacy of collected vehicle data  

After identifying the differences among states, the research should identify potential conflicts between federal and state law (preemption), interstate commerce implications of state laws with respect to deployment across state lines and technology restrictions, accommodation of persons with disabilities, and areas conducive to reciprocity.

A review of model AV legislation that has been prepared by various groups such as the Uniform Law Commission and Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets may be helpful to identify the differences in model AV legislation and how model legislation may have addressed Preemption, Commerce Clause, ADA, and other concerns.

This project should build upon, not duplicate, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) work to track AV legislation that has been introduced in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The purpose of the research is not to provide a summary of all state laws but rather to identify the differences between state laws in the research areas. It should consider similar projects, such as the New England CAV Working Group’s project, RFP # T202008003, which is underway and involves performing an assessment of regulations, policies, and practices in Connected/Automated Vehicles (testing and deployment) among six New England states, with the goal to build upon, not duplicate, the efforts of the New England CAV or other similar groups.


This research will be conducted in four tasks pursuant to a firm fixed price agreement. The tasks will be as follows:

Task 1. Research plan and detailed report outline. The consultant will conduct background research and collect relevant material. Based on the initial but complete review of the source material, the consultant will propose a detailed report outline. The outline should be about 8 to 12 pages, include a proposed survey if one is to be used, and contain sufficient detail to inform the NCHRP project panel of what a 75- to 100-page report will contain. This outline should also contain the estimated pagination for each proposed section and/or subsection. This material will be submitted to NCHRP for consideration and approval.

Task 2. After approval of the work plan, the consultant should conduct additional research, including case studies and statutory/regulatory analysis.

Task 3. Draft report in accordance with the approved work plan (including modifications required by TRB).

Task 4. Revise report as necessary. The consultant should estimate that two revisions will be necessary. One revision may be required after review by the NCHRP staff and members of a select subcommittee. Additional revisions may be required after the full committee has reviewed the report.

STATUS: Research in Progress.

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