June 30, 2023

Event in Review: Mobility Data Law and Policy Summit

5 min

On May 3, Venable’s Autonomous and Connected Mobility Group and Privacy and Data Security Group co-hosted the inaugural Mobility Data Law and Policy Summit. Thought leaders and policy makers shaping the world of emerging transportation technology convened at the firm’s DC headquarters to discuss their experiences with and perspectives on navigating the regulatory complexities and policy challenges that arise from the collection and use of mobility data.

Speakers hailing from a variety of industries and from the federal and state governments shared their insights on the latest trends, challenges, and developments impacting autonomous and connected mobility. The sessions covered a broad range of topics, but among the most widely talked about were matters related to the collection, protection, and sharing of vehicle and personal data; autonomous vehicle and privacy regulations by state; government and law enforcement access to transportation data; and using mobility data to improve safety and reduce congestion.

The day began with a welcome from Ariel Wolf, chair of Venable’s Autonomous and Connected Mobility Practice Group. Ariel then introduced Vinn White, senior advisor for innovation at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Secretary, who kicked off the event with a compelling keynote. In it, he shared insights into technology and innovation and provided policy context to underpin the work the DOT is doing in this space. Mr. White discussed the agency’s work in innovation and underlined how this work always comes back to the Secretary’s Innovation Principles, first and foremost of which is that innovation should serve the DOT’s policy priorities. Through Mr. White, the audience got a sense of the DOT’s excitement about how they can use innovation and technology to improve the safety, efficiency, equity, and resiliency of transportation.

Setting the Stage: The Current State of Mobility Data

Modern vehicles utilize diverse streams of data, from phone calls to GPS and location data for navigation, and engine and system operation and maintenance data running through the vehicle’s electronic control system. Increasingly, data from cameras, radar, lidar, and other sensors is used to help a vehicle understand the world around it, but in addition to vehicles, transportation data also comes from consumer-facing services like rideshare apps, fleet management systems, and infrastructure technologies, including traffic monitoring, digital toll collection, and other safety systems.

Tyler Duvall, co-founder and chief executive officer at Cavnue, set the stage for the summit’s panel sessions with an overview of the types of entities collecting transportation data, the kinds of data vehicles collect and need to operate, and the different sources of this data. In his presentation, Tyler discussed data insufficiency as a core challenge and the opportunity to leverage existing data to achieve a number of goals, particularly in regard to congestion mitigation and safety.

Managing Diverse Types of Transportation Data and Collecting, Protecting, and Sharing Data

Given the abundance of transportation data sources, it is critical to consider how data is used, how it is collected, and how—or whether—it is shared. But what legal frameworks are in place to govern data collection and storage?

The first panel of the day, moderated by Venable’s Tara Sugiyama Potashnik, featured a dynamic discussion on how data and privacy are top of mind for the OEMs, AV developers, and rental car companies, all of which are at the forefront of innovation in this space. Speakers from Motional, Enterprise, and Volkswagen Group of America shared perspectives on how their companies are managing diverse types of data to mitigate risks.

2023 Autonomous Vehicle and Privacy Regulations Across the 50 States

Past and present laws can either support or hinder technology and innovation. Lawyers and other privacy practitioners are able to assess how AV cameras and sensors can support compliance with the rear visibility standards and tell you how that data may be regulated by the various state laws proliferating by the minute. It is essential to understand how old laws apply to new technologies in order to interpret and grapple with new laws in this space. But with no current legislation at the federal level, and privacy laws varying by state, there is a complicated patchwork of requirements.

Associates from Venable’s Privacy and Autonomous and Connected Mobility Groups gave a presentation covering the nuances of autonomous vehicle and privacy regulations across the 50 states. Without any federal autonomous vehicle legislation, AV developers and operators are left navigating the complex patchwork of state-level legislation. The Venable team discussed opportunities to test and deploy AVs, notwithstanding this patchwork of state laws—but also explained why the push for legislation at the federal level is so important.

Government Access to Transportation Data

Government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels collect and seek access to transportation data. But not all data is good data.

The second panel, moderated by David Bonelli, a partner in the Autonomous and Connected Mobility Group, covered the need for government to sensibly request and leverage data. From a government perspective, transportation data offers important opportunities to help meet many of their needs, but it is vital for government entities to tailor their data requests to those needs and not make a big data grab. The panel further explored how government entities use transportation data, and discussed the implications for data should the federal government enact major legislation related to privacy or cybersecurity.

In closing remarks, Shoshana M. Lew, executive director for the Colorado Department of Transportation, offered real-world perspectives on how state DOTs are assessing available data and leveraging it to improve roadways and change people’s lives. She discussed the practical implications of data as it relates to the movement of people, and how access to good transportation data can help inform agencies when they need to redeploy transit resources, when roads are blocked, and when a road needs a new lane.

While recent developments in technology have greatly enhanced the transportation data available and enable government entities to receive and react to roadway updates in real time, Shoshana reiterated a topic that had been mentioned throughout the summit: when it comes to data collection, it is paramount to prioritize what is being collected and why. The Colorado DOT is very intentional, strategically targeting the right data points to answer its most salient questions.

To learn more, see the recordings from the Mobility Data Law and Policy Summit and sign up to be among the first to know about upcoming events related to mobility and privacy.