December 25, 2020

Autonomous Vehicles

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES AND WITH CONNECTIVITY COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

“Autonomous vehicles” is a globally trending topic to which companies have invested millions of dollars already. With the development of autonomous and connected vehicles, it is believed to be the next revolution in roadway safety, as it will improve the traffic conditions, save energy, be better for the environment and provide mobility to disabled and senior citizens.

1. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TERMS “AUTOMATED” AND “AUTONOMOUS”?
Autonomous means “self-governing”. Although there are discussions on the terms “automated” vs. “autonomous” as saying one (automated) is operating under control of a machine where the other (autonomous) is acting alone; we believe the autonomy is not the debate on “either the vehicle is connected to a machine or not”, it is more of a problem of the driving capacity which determines the automation level for the vehicle.

The Regulation EU 2019/2144 also describes the automation and autonomous terms in Article 3 as follows:
“..automated vehicle means a motor vehicle designed and constructed to move autonomously for certain periods of time without continuous driver supervision but in respect of which driver intervention is still expected or required..”

“..fully automated vehicle means a motor vehicle that has been designed and constructed to move autonomously without any driver supervision..”

There are different automation levels for automated vehicles such as:
1. No automation
2. Driver assistance
3. Partial assistance
4. Conditional assistance
5. High assistance
6. Full assistance

At the first four levels, the vehicle is more dependent to the driver’s existence where at the last two levels it is not.

In high assistance level, the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions.The driver may have the option to control the vehicle. In full assistance level, the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions. The driver may have the option to control the vehicle. As we think, a vehicle is considered as “autonomous” in the high assistance or full assistance levels. For high assistance and full assistance levels, there are infrastructure needs and legal requirements to be adopted in countries and Turkey is one of such countries.

2. CONNECTIVITY
Either the vehicle is an automated one or an autonomous one, one thing is certain: partially or fully, the vehicle does not need a driver, it needs to be connected to the environment, the road, other vehicles, to transport infrastructure, to pedestrians and to datacenters via cameras, sensors, GPS, internet, cloud-services, etc. It is called “connectivity”.

In the autonomous vehicle ecosystem, the wireless communication made by the vehicle  is called “V2X” which stands for the term “vehicle to everything”. V2X, has four sub- communication elements. These are:

• V2V
• V2I
• V2N
• V2P

2.1. V2V

The term “V2V” stands for “vehicle to vehicle”. With V2V, vehicles exchange information with other vehicles about their “speed, location and heading”. V2V messages have a range of more than 300 meters can detect traffic, terrain or weather.

2.2. V2I
The term “V2I” stands for “vehicle to infrastructure”. With V2I, vehicles exchange information with the road infrastructure such as road signs and traffic lights etc

2.3. V2P
The term “V2P” stands for “vehicle to pedestrians”. With V2P, vehicles exchange information with pedestrians. Although it is called vehicles to pedestrians, the communication system often contains data of VRU’s (Vulnerable Road Users) such as cyclists, and motorized two-wheeler operators.

2.4. V2N
The term “V2N” stands for “vehicle to network”. V2N is more like summing up “V2V, V2I and V2P”and have the information about them at once. With V2V, V2I and V2P, subjects of the communication exchange data directly where with V2N, the data of the subjects are exchanged via using cellular network which has a larger range of communication compared with direct methods.⁷

3. WITH CONNECTIVITY COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

As mentioned above, a vehicle needs to be connected to the environment in order to function autonomously. While it is a necessity, it is also necessary to create the legal ground of the connectivity and keep it secure. Since there is a communication with other subjects, where the subject is a natural person, it means there is processing of personal data and there may be legal issues related to personal data acts. There may also be mal-functions on the communication system or cyber-attacks may happen. Some of the first questions come up with these issues are “How shall the legal grounds of processing be constituted?” and “Which country’s personal data regulation shall comply?”, “Can datacenters use the collected data for other purposes?”, “The situation of online advertisements via communication line used for connectivity”, “What measures shall be taken to keep the cybersecurity?” and “If the autonomous vehicle uses a system based on artificial intelligence, then who or what shall be responsible in case there is a mal-function or violating acts?” etc…

So it brings us to a new legal universe to discover…