Published: May 5, 2021
WIT Legal, LLC

Once regarded as a long-term vision of modern technology, self-driving vehicles are quickly coming into focus in terms of accessibility and reach. The United States, the leading market for autonomous vehicles, has shown significant progress with the likes of pilot programs for driverless delivery and taxi services in 25 cities with driving distances up to 50 miles in some areas. General trust in the idea of self-driving vehicles has also increased over the past four years – so much so that it has even shown up in the form of mainstream commercial advertising, such as the latest ad for Domino’s pizza showing Nuro’s self-driving car delivering pizza in Houston.

The automobile today serves as a high-tech platform that links automotive manufacturers and suppliers with emerging technology providers. Hastened by the desire for contactless services brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, competition in this space continues to intensify and become globalized. Top manufacturers include Tesla, Waymo, and GM’s Cruise in the US and startups like Zoox, Mobileye, and Baidu’s Apollo Go in Australia, Israel, and China, respectively.  Additionally, an extensive field of innovators has emerged worldwide for components and other linked technologies, ranging from sensing tools and systems to WiFi, to cellular, OTS hardware, and specialized processors.

Growing trust, fierce competition, a crowded field, and uncharted innovation create opportunities for litigation.

The frontrunners for self-driving technology continuously fluctuate, with new entrants challenging existing players for control. Baidu, China’s search engine giant, recently announced the launch of a paid autonomous vehicles service in China—nipping at the heels of Google’s Waymo One advancements. As the field tightens, consolidations and partnerships are bound to emerge between manufacturers and suppliers. Hyundai and giant auto parts supplier Aptiv joined forces to create Motional with self-driving cars currently being tested in Las Vegas. And, in a race for patent dominance, scrutiny over patent pools will likely ignite questions over ownership.

We expect litigation involving self-driving vehicles to burgeon quickly.

When litigation ensues, attorneys will need expert witness support for a wide range of areas related to self-driving vehicles. Ideally, attorneys should leverage experts who can address various specialties, whether it be to understand specific advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), explain industry practices and policies, or present matters that involve high-level FRAND and damages analyses. Identifying the hot spots in the battery and electric vehicles markets—who owns what and where we expect litigation to arise—will be core to recognizing the opportunities for legal disputes as well. Additionally, the right expert witness can provide insight into how auto patent policies have impacted trade secrets litigation.

The global autonomous vehicles market is expected to grow to $325.9 billion by 2030 (a CAGR of 41.57% from 2021 to 2030)*. There is little doubt that self-driving technology is driving investment opportunity. The questions are which companies will be the market leaders, and how will they develop litigation strategies to stay at the forefront.

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