Autonomous Vehicles - Background

Autonomous Vehicles & Transportation-as-a-Service


Crowell & Moring’s Autonomous Vehicles & Transportation-as-a-Service Practice represents leading global manufacturers of self-driving cars and trucks, makers and sellers of vehicle component parts, and related technology developers. We help venturers of all types, from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups, shape competitive business strategies and legal solutions for the full life cycle of autonomous vehicle technology development.

Our work has ranged from serving as one of the first law firms in the United States to provide regulatory guidance on testing self-driving cars, to defending and winning automotive hackability litigation, to managing global intellectual property filings for the world’s most innovative automotive technology companies.

Our clients include industry leaders across the automotive value chain, including leading autonomous and connected car and truck manufacturers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive part suppliers, software developers and integrators, investors, insurers, and the makers of sensors, connectivity, mapping, Lidar, and other autonomous technologies.

Guiding Business Opportunities

We represent the world’s leading automotive and transportation companies and have for more than 30 years, and today we’re partnering with clients to bring the most innovative autonomous vehicle technology to a rapidly changing market. From representing the major Detroit car and truck players to emerging automotive technology companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, we work with a wide range of established and emerging companies, as well as non-traditional players, to help find new opportunities, navigate the changing regulatory landscape, and minimize and manage litigation risk along the way.

The competition for market success is driving companies to move at breakneck speed, and the autonomous road ahead is paved with complex business, technical, legal, and regulatory challenges. Our team addresses those challenges and helps clients seize opportunities. We bring full-service, multi-disciplinary teams to the table for our autonomy clients, and we're able to scale our efforts efficiently to meet client demand.

"The companies that are leading the way are not only innovating. They’re asking the right questions about where the opportunities are and where the risks lie. We partner with clients to create a map for the road ahead, whether that road involves moving into new markets, mitigating regulatory risks, or working through first-of-their-kind legal issues."

Cheryl Falvey,
Crowell & Moring partner

Product Liability and Regulatory Solutions: We help clients navigate product liability, safety and regulatory compliance, cybersecurity and data privacy, and other regulatory challenges that arise as products move to market and become increasingly connected. As a leading regulatory firm in Washington, we work with the full range of federal agencies that are playing a role in the future of autonomous vehicle innovation—from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to Homeland Security to defense industry bodies and beyond. Our team also includes lawyers in all three of our California offices who track developments as that state leads the way in autonomous vehicle regulation and deployment.

Transactions and IP: Our team leads corporate transactions for autonomous vehicle companies and investors from beginning to end. We use a holistic approach in our transactions that pairs corporate attorneys with IP specialists and regulatory diligence advisors. Our multidisciplinary teams understand the changing regulatory framework and the issues that can impact deals down the road. We also handle international intellectual property concerns for some of the most innovative companies in the industry.

Strategic Business Counsel: Crowell & Moring partners with clients to provide legal counseling that is essential in building a road map for innovation and developing each stage of product development, from concept testing to commercialization to creating aftermarket strategies. We pride ourselves on assembling multi-disciplinary, creative teams who understand the business objectives and the importance of providing bottom-line legal advice that is critical in achieving these goals.

Overcoming Roadblocks

We help companies overcome roadblocks. Plaintiffs’ lawyers brought the first automotive hacking case against one of our major OEM clients. As the plaintiffs alleged:

The automakers do not disclose to buyers . . . that their vehicles are susceptible to hacking . . . are not secure, and therefore not safe – owners and lessees of these vehicles are currently at risk of theft, damage, serious physical injury, or death as a result of hacking.”

We defeated this lawsuit on motion in the trial court and then won on appeal. The outcome will help shape the law in the AV ecosystem.


Full Life Cycle Support

Our lawyers are nationally recognized for their ability to develop creative solutions for clients. Our team includes lawyers named to the National Law Journal's "Trailblazers & Pioneers" and Los Angeles Business Journal's "Most Influential Intellectual Property Attorneys," among others.

Our team provides legal and business solutions at every stage of the full life cycle of product development. Our transactions and corporate lawyers help start-up and middle market companies, as well as industry leaders, create smart partnerships and maximize joint-development opportunities. With our extensive federal- and state-level regulatory and policy development experience, we work with clients to create government relations strategies and navigate rapidly shifting framework of laws and regulations, whether it’s at NHTSA, state agencies, or Capitol Hill. And when disputes arise—as happens in any fast-moving industry—our seasoned litigators are prepared to resolve conflicts quickly, whether in court or across the negotiating table.

We leverage our extensive, cross-industry experience in the manufacturing, software, hardware, telecommunications, transportation, outsourcing, and other sectors to provide full-spectrum counsel. And we view it as critical to work with in-house legal teams, engineers, sales and marketing, and other leaders within their organizations to solve a full suite of business and legal challenges, including:

  • Transactions and commercialization, including capital raising, acquisitions and joint ventures and counseling on technology and database use and development
  • Risk allocation and products liability planning
  • Cybersecurity and information privacy
  • Regulatory counseling, compliance and risk management (including NHSTA)
  • Intellectual property protection, due diligence, prosecution, licensing, and enforcement
  • Advertising, warranties, recalls, and quality assurance
  • Environmental management and energy
  • Government procurement, relations, and public policy
  • Antitrust
  • Litigation
  • Investigations, including crisis response and communications
  • International trade
  • Insurance

At Crowell & Moring, we draw on the deep industry and regulatory experience of our lawyers and technology professionals to help innovative companies create legal solutions as they develop, test, market, and monetize autonomous-vehicle technology.

Our Work

Our client engagements span the business life cycle of autonomous vehicles:

  • Intellectual Property
    Provide ongoing representation of autonomous and electric car and truck manufacturers in patenting autonomous and electric vehicle innovations, including technologies relating to vehicle control systems, automated route mapping, driver warning systems, autonomous parking, obstacle detection, and hazard avoidance.
  • Intellectual Property – Inter Partes Reviews
    Represented an electric car manufacturer in multiple inter partes reviews (IPR) before the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board in matters relating to electric vehicle construction.
  • Intellectual Property – Inter Partes Reviews
    Represented vehicle manufacturer in various IPRs relating to driver assistance systems, such as adaptive headlight technology, crash assistance systems, and speed assistance systems.
  • International Joint Venture
    Represented a start-up OEM focused on electric and autonomous vehicles in its financing and joint venture with a Middle Eastern conglomerate, acting as the outside general counsel to the joint venture, and providing advice on corporate transactions, corporate compliance and governance, intellectual property, international trade, labor and employment, litigation, and regulatory risk management.
  • Corporate Due Diligence
    Represented Chinese investor in significant and comprehensive due diligence (including corporate, labor and employment, international trade and sanctions, environmental and regulatory) for its proposed investment in a start-up OEM focused on electronic vehicles.
  • Corporate
    Provided corporate counseling to an investment firm that provides advisory services to and about emerging automotive technology companies. Assisted client in raising investment fund and advised on emerging automotive technology company investments.
  • Corporate Counseling
    Provided corporate counseling to a leading trade association as it launched an autonomous vehicle online database.
  • Autonomous Vehicle Testing - Regulatory Strategy
    Helped leading automotive manufacturer develop a state and federal regulatory strategy for autonomous vehicle testing and use in multiple U.S. states. Developed a regulatory road map for navigating pending federal legislation, state laws, and state departments of motor vehicles.
  • Cybersecurity Class-action Litigation
    Secured the dismissal of a consumer class-action filed against an automobile manufacturer. Plaintiffs had alleged that their cars could be hacked and sought damages for negligence, design defect, breach of warranty, and statutory privacy violations.
  • Regulatory Compliance
    Provided counseling on NHTSA guidance for distracted driving in connection with testing of new technology in car application. Conduction nationwide state surveys on distracted driving legislation and mobile phone prohibitions.
  • Product Liability
    Assisted one of world’s leading technology companies determine the risk associated with incorporating artificial intelligence technology into automobiles and trucks. Provided analyses of product liability cases brought against app developers for injuries alleged to have been caused by distracted driving.
  • OEM “Envelope” Design Methodology Litigation
    Litigated numerous commercial and tort disputes for parts suppliers, many of which cases involved OEM “envelope” design methodology and the interconnection of car parts and design considerations.
  • Industrial Transportation Counseling
    Providing ongoing counsel to major industrial transportation company as it creates autonomy initiative strategy.
  • Rail Cybersecurity
    Provided strategic cybersecurity advice to rail company considering entry into autonomous mobility.

(To read more about our work for UAS clients, click here.)