California Develops Rules for Self-Driving Cars

Last month, we reported that self-driving cars will be on national highways within five years, and are already on roads in San Francisco. Our auto accident attorneys recently learned that the California Department of Motor Vehicles may issue regulations on this new technology next year.

Home of Silicon Valley, its no surprise that California is spearheading the movement to bring self-driving cars to the public. There are many different types and levels of self-driving or autonomous cars, from operating entirely without a human present to crash-avoidance systems that are already present in millions of vehicles.

The legal arm of the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been developing regulations for self-driving cars for about four years. In 2012, a law passed requiring the Department to conduct assessments on the safety of this new technology. Some of the major concerns revolve on whether or not the auto industry should be allowed to guarantee that its vehicles will comply with all state laws and codes, which is known as €œself-certification.

The ability to self-certify is not a new concept€“ licensed building professionals are often allowed to self-certify that the construction processes are performed according to code but the auto industry is not exactly trustworthy. One needs only to glance at our blog to see how the auto industry has knowingly and willfully put public safety at risk in order to dodge recall requests and save its profits.

$4 Billion in Federal Funds

The industry is now pushing the federal government to pioneer the regulatory process. In January 2016 the Obama administration announced a $4 billion program to fund new driverless car pilot programs over the next decade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also plans to soon announce safe practices guidelines for this new technology.

In pushing for these programs, the auto industry is more concerned about its own liability than any interest in public safety. As you know, each state has unique laws and regulations surrounding traffic safety and accident liability. It would be a nightmare to try to navigate 50 different legal systems once these vehicles are available for public use.

Liability issues are, understandably, at the forefront of many people’s and company€™s minds. There has been much debate on this topic over who should hold responsibility when a self-driving vehicle is involved in a serious accident. What if, at the last second, the car reverts to human control? Those few seconds could make a world of difference in who or what company will ultimately pay claims of injury, death or property damage.

This is especially important now in California, as one of Google’s completely-autonomous cars was at fault for an accident in El Camino on Valentine’s Day this year. The car was driving on El Camino Real (a wide boulevard that runs through Google’s headquarters in Mountain View) when it side-swept a bus. Google claims there was mutual blame on its part and the part of the bus driver, and that it has already tweaked its software to accept that buses are less likely to yield than other types of vehicles.

The Year 2025

Although some types of autonomous vehicles are expected on American roads within a few years, most experts predict they will not be commonly used until at least 2021. One research report estimated that, by the year 2025, there will be nearly 20 million self-driving vehicles on the road in North America and Europe.

The five companies at the forefront of this are: Google, Tesla, Volvo, Apple and Daimler (owner of Mercedes-Benz). Many other automakers and tech companies – from GM to Uber €“are also in the race.

Our auto accident attorneys have been representing seriously injured victims and their families for over 30 years, winning millions for our clients. We will continue to update this blog as more information is made available. If you have any questions about car, bus, truck or motorcycle accidents, contact our firm for a free consultation today.

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