Policy Lab is used to test, develop, and evaluate new technologies in combination with rules and policies that can act both as enablers and obstacles. The Lab is in high demand, and a series of projects are underway here, many of which involve autonomous vehicles.
New technologies frequently challenge existing regulatory frameworks since the rules may be outdated.
“There may be regulations banning a technology even though it could be great for the environment and would solve several problems,” says Kristina Andersson, Senior Researcher and Legal Expert at RISE.
“So, to move forwards, new legislation may be needed, or existing legislation could perhaps be used in a new way, a little outside the box. Here in the policy lab, we can explore ideas and innovations that are at a very early stage in order to understand what challenges and opportunities exist in terms of regulations and policies.”
Policy Lab incorporates expertise from various fields, such as lawyers, engineers, economists, designers, and behavioural scientists.
“The combination of expertise allows us to approach the issue from different perspectives so that we can achieve a technology that is safe in combination with regulatory frameworks that work,” says Andersson.
An important role for Policy Lab is to serve as an independent arena where various industry and government operators can meet and discuss the issues together with RISE as expert and facilitator.
“The problems and questions usually look slightly different to the authorities compared to industry – they have different types of issues – but they have a common denominator and task that they want to achieve. The perspective of the authorities is usually to have a complete basis before taking decisions, whereas industry is accustomed to working agilely. The policy lab offers the possibility of switching perspectives to retrospectively understand each other’s needs when more information becomes available.
The policy lab offers the possibility of switching perspectives to retrospectively understand each other’s needs when more information becomes available
From uncertainty to assurance with autonomous vehicles
Autonomous vehicle technology is an example where the policy lab reviewed existing legislation together with relevant companies and government agencies.
“In this case, there had been new legislation relating to autonomous vehicle trials, where the Swedish Transport Agency would serve as the licencing authority,” explains Andersson. “But since the industry had never submitted an application and the Swedish Transport Agency had never had to deal with such a matter, no one knew how it would work in practice. So, we ran a joint project on this and resolved the issues. Now, three years later, everyone knows exactly what is required and feels assured.”
Another area in which RISE has been involved that also necessitated completely new legislation is geofencing, which refers to virtual perimeters that allow connected vehicles to be controlled in different ways. For example, the technology can be used to prevent armoured vehicles transporting cash or valuables from diverging from a defined route, that cars maintain a set speed, or that electric scooters do not drive within certain zones, such as during a demonstration. The principle can also be used for advertising, where, for example, a virtual boundary can be created on a motorway and offers from companies in the area can be shown directly on a vehicle’s in-dash display.
“The technology can be used in many different ways, and because this is a brand-new area, there are no clear rules yet, which means we have several different projects underway,” says Andersson.
What should Policy Lab focus on for the best possible outcome?
“My experience is that everyone is very positive and can easily imagine ten years in the future when everything works exactly as it should. But when I ask what it will take to get there, there is often a great degree of uncertainty. The way I see it, this is the first step we need to focus on to get the ball rolling based on a here-and-now approach and the real needs that exist.”