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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For all the concern over the patchwork of regulations governing AVs from state to state, a similar issue has been largely ignored: idiosyncratic road rules that vary not only state to state but also city to city.

Why it matters: Human drivers in an unfamiliar city will use their knowledge of familiar road rules to determine whether a right turn on red is allowed, for example. AV developers face a much bigger challenge: how to program self-driving software to ensure compliance when the rules of the road vary from one place to another.

Background: Currently, 29 states have passed some kind of legislation for self-driving cars, some more extensive than others.

  • NHTSA recently encouraged states to pursue a "consistent regulatory and operational environment," warning that discrepancies between state and local laws lead to confusion and compliance challenges.

Reality check: There are already varying road rules for all road users, not only in all 50 states, but in thousands of cities.

  • These variations are not insignificant; states differ, for example, on when vehicles must stop for school buses and how cars should make turns across bike lanes.

Where it stands: Right now, self-driving technology is being tested in limited jurisdictions, so companies can feasibly program rules for each municipality individually.

  • As AV companies eventually expand to all 50 states and thousands of cities, that task will become much harder. 

The bottom line: States, cities, and AV companies may eventually need to collaborate to standardize road rules, not just AV regulations.

Charity Allen is the head of regulatory counsel at Aurora.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

4 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.