Authored Articles & Publications Apr 20, 2017

National League of Cities Releases Guide on Preparing for Autonomous Vehicles

By Gregory Rodriguez

The National League of Cities just released “Autonomous Vehicles: A Policy Preparation Guide,” giving municipalities a much-needed resource around tracking legislative developments and having a voice in the policy discussion concerning ongoing testing and deployment of automated vehicles. I was pleased to collaborate with NLC on this Guide at a time when the conversation around automated vehicles has never been livelier, but is still filled with numerous important legal and policy questions.

The Guide comes in the wake of last year’s release of the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which was an important first step toward developing a policy framework for the safe and effective incorporation of AVs onto our roads. I appreciated the opportunity to provide a local government perspective through the filing of comments focused on the preservation of local control of the right of way and ensuring local governments maintain options for paying for any infrastructure needed to support the safe operation of AVs.

  • Knowing there are more questions than answers around this transformative technology, the Guide tracks the Federal AV Policy and helps guide local governments through the important issues they need to be considering with this fast moving technology. Some key takeaways are the following:
  • Now is the time for local governments to be a part of the dialogue around this transformative issue, especially since they are a conduit for public education and acceptance.
  • Public and private sector collaboration is needed to learn from real-world demonstration projects and to avoid “technophobic sentiments” around emerging technologies.
  • The ongoing conversations around funding future infrastructure needs to support the safe and effective operation of new technologies on our roads, including the consideration of important policies around privacy, procurement and cybersecurity.
  • Coordination among local agencies is important for long-range planning purposes and to make sure new technologies complement existing transportation systems, which continue to be invested in with local, state and federal dollars.

With testing occurring on public roads in Pennsylvania, Arizona and California, and the announcement by the Department of Transportation of 10 Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds for the much-needed real world testing of AVs, we are moving closer to a reality where AVs are incorporated into our transportation system. However, without planning and collaboration between the public and private sectors, and coordination with local governments, we risk the inefficient merging of AV’s into our transportation network.

Local governments play a critical role in the safe operation of AV’s and promoting public outreach and adoption. Making sure they are welcomed to the table helps ensure transportation harmony with safer roads and enhanced mobility for the disabled, seniors, and those with lower-incomes, rather than congestion chaos.

Note: This article originally appeared on the now-defunct BBKnowledge blog, where Best Best & Krieger authors shared their knowledge on emerging issues in public agency law.

Gregory Rodriguez is no longer with BB&K. If you have questions about this article please contact Steven Debaun at

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