A long time aspiration of mine has been to build an electric car (initially with no autonomous driving capabilities) to take to the public market in California and/or Illinois, as those are my two home states... unless there's another state that you can think of that is legally advantageous to incorporate a car company in.

Disregarding the financial and engineering challenges, what legal hurdles would I have to overcome? What safety standards need to be meet for the vehicle? Which governing bodies would I need to be in contact with about even starting such an endeavor? DMV? DoT? NHTSA? Others?

Should patent litigation with other EV manufacturers be a big worry?

What else can you see I need to be thinking about?

My apologies if this question seemed long-winded or off topic for the Law Stack Exchange community but I didn't know where else to ask. Thanks in advance!


It might be worth making enquiries about single vehicle or low volume approval (I don't know about the US - the UK equivalent is the Vehicle Certification Agency - perhaps the DMV would be able to point you in the right direction).

If you have bigger plans, I would say the first step would be to recruit someone with legal and legislative experience (an experienced lawyer and/or certification engineer). There's going to be enough to justify a position even if you're able to follow a single vehicle approval route.

Patents will need considering, but avoid litigation even if this means licensing technology from one of the bigger players. They'll have bigger lawyers than you.

Even if full approval isn't required for small volumes, you'll want to design to standards as this will give some protection in case of product liability claims. Wikipedia has a good list of FMVSS, but as always with Wikipedia, follow the links.

Most importantly, don't underestimate the size of the undertaking - even small niche vehicle manufacturers have legal and certification departments of tens of people.

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