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Research Centre of European Private Law


Senior Researchers' Projects

Title of the project:
Legal perspectives for the operation of autonomous vehicles

Person in charge for the project: Ph.D. Avv. Maria Cristina Gaeta.
Research group: Ph.D. (c) Livia Aulino, Ph.D. (c) Paolo Di Lauro, Dott. Luigi Filippo Nappi.

Starting date: February 2016
Deadline: in progress


The evolution in the field of automation applied to the vehicles systems has reached high levels and - thanks to technological development - it is likely to move towards even more quick progress. However, the introduction of self-driving vehicles on the market not only entails considerable advantages, but also implies several legal issues which the current regulations do not always appear to address adequately.

Therefore, the ReCEPL, through the Research Group on self-driving cars, takes the perspective of international and European law, focusing on the analysis of the state of the art related to the regulation of autonomous and connected driving, both in the strategy and experimentation phase and in that of the introduction of self-driving cars on public roads with open access. With these foundations in mind, the ReCEPL Research Group aims at the elaboration of legal principles applicable to autonomous vehicles and at the constitution of a national institution of reference in this field, which appears to be of extreme relevance.

The Research Group constantly in contact with national and European organisations dealing with autonomous vehicles. In particular, it performs collaboration and advising activities for public and private bodies on the subject of smart driving.

In order to carry out its activities, the Research Group relies on long-established and well-structured collaborations with engineers, psychologists and philosophers, based on an interdisciplinary approach, which aims at the hybridisation of knowledge. This research methodology has allowed the Research Group to understand the functioning of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADASs) of (semi)autonomous vehicles, as well as their interaction with humans and the surrounding environment, with the goal of supporting national and European strategies for the development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in an anthropocentric and eco-sustainable perspective.

Individual collaborations and advices

RE:lab srl
April 2020 - September 2020

Centro di ricerca Humatects, Oldenburg (Germany)
May 2020 - October 2020

Hellenic Institute of Transport, Salonicco (Greece)
November 2020 - to date

European Centre of Excellence on the Regulation of Robotics & AI (EURA), Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa
March 2019 - to date

Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF), EMEA, Product Development HMI Features & User Interface Design - ADAS HMI team C.R.F. S.C.p.A, Orbassano (Torino)
October 2019 - March 2020

Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC), Institute of Legal Studies (IALS), University of London (Regno Unito)
March 2019 - March 2020

Interdisziplinäre Institut für Automatisierte Systeme e.V. (RifaS), Hannover (Germany)
September 2018 - to date

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), University of London (United Kingdom)
July 2017 - October 2017

Queen Mary University of London (United Kingdom)
September 2017 - October 2017

Work phases

The work of the Research Group is organised in the following phases:
1. the reconstruction and the analysis of the state of the art of current legislation (hard law, as well as soft law and technical regulations) applicable to autonomous vehicles, both at European and international level;
2. an in-depth analysis of the different national strategies on the development of autonomous vehicles, with specific regard to certain use cases that such as hypotheses for the provision of dedicated spaces for the experimentation and circulation of different types of autonomous vehicles with ad hoc regulations;
3. the regulatory impact assessment (RIA) and the ex-post evaluation of regulation (VIR) concerning the regulation of autonomous vehicles both in the experimentation phase and in the sales phase;
4. a proposal for regulation of autonomous vehicles, based on the adoption of ethical-legal principles, applicable at least at European level, and implementable through hard law acts (e.g. laws and regulations), soft law acts (e.g. codes of conduct), and technical regulations (e.g. standards), but also through the so-called techno-regulation.


The above-mentioned work phases aim at the realization of well-identified goals which are listed below:
1. to verify the applicability of existing regulations to autonomous vehicles, both in terms of their experimentation and their introduction on open-access urban roads, with particular regard to both the general regulatory system and specific urban and social needs;
2. to identify new governance models, managing smart mobility at national level on the basis of the identified principles; as well as agentification and legal design processes to facilitate the interaction of man and the surrounding environment with this new type of smart mobility;
3. to draw up ethical-legal principles which could be adopted at European level, both in the strategy and experimentation phase and in the sales phase;
4. to plan a national institution of reference (dedicated authority or group of experts at an existing institution) on the subject of autonomous vehicles with specific regard to the regulatory aspects of the phenomenon and their inclusion in the relevant legal systems.

Expected results

The expected results are divided into intermediate results and final results.

As for the intermediate results, the Research Group on self-driving cars focuses - in addition to offering collaboration and advice to interested parties - on participation in research projects, publication of scientific contributions, organisation of events and publication of news related to the strategy and regulation of autonomous vehicles.

In particular, the following are published and constantly updated:
- Research projects in which the Research Group is involved, concerning the different aspects of strategy, experimentation and development of smart and connected mobility (from Floating cellular data to eCall and, more generally, to the Internet of Things in the automotive sector).
- Scientific publications of the Research Group on the subject of autonomous driving.
- Events of the Research Group (conferences, doctoral lectures and workshops) on autonomous vehicles.
- Updates on international, European and national legislative initiatives concerning the regulation of autonomous vehicles with hard and soft law acts.
- Useful links for information and updates on national and European strategies focused on intelligent mobility.

The final results of the project, on the other hand, concern the realisation of a proposal for common ethical and legal principles, adoptable at least at European level, as well as the ideation of a national institution of reference on autonomous vehicles.

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