Brian A. Browne


"Self-driving cars shatter the schism between federal and state safety regulations for automobiles in the United States…. In Part I, this paper will define self-driving cars and their benefits, describe the imminent safety issues they present for regulatory agencies, and introduce the most commonly analyzed legal issues for self-driving cars. Part II will give background information on the United States regulates motor vehicles by first describing the federal government’s traditional role in regulating vehicle safety via NHTSA. Then, Part II will explain the preliminary actions NHTSA and several state governments have taken to preliminarily regulate self-driving cars. Part III will compare two approaches to creating a new regulatory regime for self-driving cars: a federal approach and a state approach. Part III will begin by examining the legal authority of NHTSA to regulate self-driving cars, and what authority the states may retain. Then, Part III will compare the practical benefits and drawbacks of seeking enhanced federal regulations versus a state-by-state approach to regulation. Finally, Part VI will show that NHTSA’s use of a model national policy is the best way to prospectively regulate self-driving cars because it combines the strengths of a consistent national policy with the flexibility of state rulemaking."