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Russia: Government Begins Testing Driverless Cars

(Jan. 18, 2019) On November 26, 2018, the government of the Russian Federation issued a regulation that permits the testing of driverless cars on regular roads to begin. (Government of the Russian Federation, Regulation No. 1415 of November 26, 2018, on Conducting an Experiment in Testing the Use of Highly Automated Vehicles on Public Roads, Russian Government information portal (in Russian).) The new Regulation is the first piece of national legislation that regulates the use of autonomous vehicles.

The government will conduct the experimental testing between December 1, 2018, and March 1, 2022, on roads of two constituent components of the Russian Federation—the capital city of Moscow and the Republic of Tatarstan, a territory located about 500 miles to the east of Moscow. Simultaneously, the government approved the Rules of the Experiment, which designate a government research lab to coordinate the testing. (Id.) The laboratory is to collect applications from owners of the autonomous vehicles, issue testing permits after reviewing the test vehicles and their electronic equipment during a 45-day review period, monitor the results, and provide recommendations for safety standards. (Id. para. 10.)   Reports summarizing the test results and proposing further developments must be submitted to the government by March 2020 and again in 2022. These reports must contain recommendations regarding technical requirements and standards for the practical use of autonomous vehicles. (Id. para. 3.)

Each autonomous vehicle is to be equipped with a data recording system; a mechanism allowing the pilot, whose presence in the car is required, to activate and deactivate the autonomous driving system; and equipment for recording traffic and the pilot’s actions. This video recording must be preserved for no less than 10 years and can be given to government agencies upon their request. Each driverless car must bear a special sign with a large black letter “A” to identify it as an autonomous vehicle. A pilot must have no less than three years of professional driving experience, have a clean driving record, and be medically certified to serve as a driving instructor for the specific category of cars that is being tested. (Id. para. 11.)

The owner of an autonomous vehicle is responsible for all traffic and other accidents that occur on Russian roads with the car if nobody else is found guilty. Liability insurance with at least 10 million rubles (about US$150,000) of protection is required. The owner of a car equipped with a system for autonomous driving can be a legal entity, and the owner cannot be changed during the testing period. (Id. para. 7.)  Russian attorneys believe that disputes arising from traffic accidents involving autonomous cars can be resolved under general civil legislation and, in the future, only the owners of driverless cars will be financially liable regardless of the severity of damages inflicted. Others are of the opinion that the responsibility for damages can be placed on the pilots who monitor the autonomous driving system if they are found to be at fault and on the developers of the autonomous technology if in an accident was the result of a system failure. (Ivan Buranov, Driverless Cars Will Have Their Rights, KOMMERSANT (Nov. 6, 2018) (in Russian).)

The original draft of the Rules established that no more than 200 driverless cars can be tested in one constituent component at the same time and stated that the equity capital of an enterprise that owns the car must be no less than the equivalent of US$1.5 million. These requirements were criticized during public discussion of the Rules, mainly because of a threat that many smaller startups working in this field would thus be excluded from the market. These provisions were removed from the final version of the document. The major Russian Internet company, Yandex, is leading the country’s development of driverless technology, while state-owned car manufacturers are known for the poor quality of their cars. Such major car manufacturers as Scania, Volvo, Toyota, and Audi have also reportedly expressed interest in testing their autonomous vehicles in the traditionally difficult Russian driving conditions. (New Legislation Set to Regulate Russia’s Burgeoning Driverless Car Market, THE BELL (Nov. 10, 2018).)

Industry experts predict that by the year 2025, there will be around 20,000 driverless cars on Russian roads. (Elena Botoroeva, There Will Be 11 Million Driverless Cars in Russia in 25 Years, PARLAMENTSKAIA GAZETA (Nov. 12, 2018) (in Russian).) They cite the absence of a requirement to test driverless software and technology under specifically established standards before beginning the road test as a weakness and see this as a potential traffic-safety issue. The fact that the Rules do not specify what would qualify as a successful test is seen as another deficiency of the Rules. (Ivan Buranov, Transportation Ministry Proposes Amendments to the Vienna Convention, KOMMERSANT (Sept. 8, 2018) (in Russian).) The State Duma (Russian legislature) has not included laws regulating driverless cars in its legislative agenda and, in September 2018, one of the Duma leaders stated that the parliamentarians are going legislate “the more important problems of transportation infrastructure and highway construction.” (Id.)