State AGs Are Flexing Their Muscles on Technology

07 August 2017 Dashboard Insights Blog

Headlines for state attorneys general (AGs) have been dominated by tangles with the Trump administration — from the travel ban case going to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenges to legacy regulations at federal agencies. Less visible are actions by state AGs to push forward their interests and influence in technology-oriented consumer products, particularly driverless cars.

Thrice in row this summer, state AGs have had conference panels to discuss driverless vehicles and the implications for consumers. AGs are market regulators and enforcers, and traditional defenders of their states’ consumer protection laws. Yet the driverless phenomenon is making it difficult for how AGs themselves should react to the seismic shift in consumer preferences where desire for efficiency, personalization and freedom is trumping traditional notions of consumer protection.

With driverless or “autonomous” vehicles, we have the Jetsons becoming reality. A fleet of cars without drivers roams the streets of Pittsburgh, and a production vehicles will show up at your door. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration categorizes five levels of automated driving from level one, which includes cruise control, to levels four and five, in which the vehicle monitors all roadway conditions and reacts appropriately. Between the ends of this spectrum is an incremental revolution, as more and more driver assistance features are introduced into vehicles.

Along with the productivity and safety gains for those no longer seated behind a steering wheel, state AGs recognize potential privacy concerns with location data, driving habits and occupant identification that could be at risk of unauthorized use or disclosure. State AGs will also seek to defend their state laws from the preemptive effects of federal regulations that may otherwise be necessary to usher the advancement of driverless technology. With state AGs clearly having a role to influence the driverless industry and its future, proactive engagement with those AGs is critical.

A version of this posting was originally published in The Hill: 

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