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Autonomous Vehicles Interview with Brian Soublet

Autonomous Vehicles Interview with Brian Soublet

June 21, 2017

Brian Soublet, Deputy Director & Chief Counsel, California Department of Motor Vehicles

Personally, what is the most interesting aspect in the convergence of the tech and automobile sectors?
California traffic fatality data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the years 2011 to 2015 show that the number of people killed in traffic collisions on our highways is steadily increasing.  While there have been many efforts to address the human causes of those collisions through public awareness campaigns and changes in the laws, the number of fatalities due to factors such as driving under the influence, speeding, distracted and fatigued driving continue to play significant roles in those collisions.  The most interesting aspect of the convergence of the tech and automobile sectors is the hope that it provides a new avenue to address the loss of life caused by traffic collisions and the promise of independent mobility for those who cannot operate an automobile.

What are the challenges facing the autonomous vehicle industry?

The challenges facing the industry include issues such as liability, cyber-security, and insurance.  The major challenge is developing public trust in the capability of the technology.  We will not see the greatest impact of autonomous technology until the majority of vehicles on our roads are equipped with autonomous systems.
How will cybersecurity play into the autonomous vehicle industry in the coming years?

People have to feel safe riding in a vehicle that is being driven autonomously.  The industry must develop a set of best practices as a guide to manufacturers to assure the public that the vehicles they produce are secure from the threat of hacking.

What are the next steps in the development of federal and state regulations in the self-driving industry?

On a federal level the next step could be continuing the process initiated by NHTSA last fall with the publication of the Highly Automated Vehicles Policy and eventually the development of motor vehicle safety standards for autonomous technology.  On the state level, specifically here in California, the next step is the completion of the California DMV’s testing of driverless vehicle and deployment regulations.  These regulations will provide a clear path for the development and public deployment of fully driverless vehicles on public streets in California.

How did you initially get involved in this industry and what do you love about it?

I became involved in regulating this industry when SB 1298 was signed into law in 2012.  That legislation required the California DMV to develop regulations governing the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state.  As an attorney for the DMV I was part of a the team tasked with writing the regulations that were required by SB 1298.  Autonomous technology has the promise of being the next big revolution in transportation. I love the challenge associated with drafting the rules that will enable that technology to become part of our transportation future.