Roadway Driverless Car Numbers to Increase


Roadway Driverless Car Numbers to Increase

On July 19, a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee approved a bill to allow increased testing of autonomous motor vehicles on roads in the United States. The Energy and Commerce Committee could take up this bill next week.

Proposed Increase in Autonomous Vehicles on the Road

Under provisions of the legislation, up to 100,000 vehicles that drive themselves could be allowed on our roads but without meeting current safety standards. This will increase the number of driverless vehicles from its current 2,500 level. This move is supposed to boost the testing of technology related to autonomous cars. The bill does require crash reports to be filed by manufacturers. In addition, the Secretary of Transportation must stop any exemptions for manufacturers if defects are found.

Driverless Car Bill Could Be Voted on in September

The earliest date this bill could be voted on in the House is September because of the August recess. However, lawmakers will be given additional time to make changes that might raise more support for the bill through this hiatus. One change could be to address limitations placed by the many different states regarding the operations of autonomous vehicles. Many state bills are pending nationwide to regulate driverless vehicles, while some states, such as California, have already enacted some laws to address these vehicles.

This bill would prevent a state or city from having the ability to pass its own laws on the construction or design of the vehicles. Because human error causes most motor vehicle accidents, this advanced technology is seen as a way to lower the incidence of accidents.

Crashes and Malfunctions in Driverless Cars

The first death in a self-driving vehicle occurred in June 2016 when neither the vehicle, on autopilot, nor the passenger noticed a semi. The vehicle went underneath the semi, killing the passenger. In such cases, the manufacturer, Tesla, could be held responsible under a wrongful death or product liability lawsuit because the vehicle did not do what it was programmed to do. However, Tesla was cleared of wrongdoing in this case.

In March of this year, Uber pulled its fleet of driverless cars off the road in Arizona when one car experienced a rollover when another vehicle did not yield. Uber also pulled its fleet of cars in Pittsburgh and San Francisco because the vehicles were running through red lights.

Liability for Driverless Car Accidents

The question of who is responsible for damages in driverless cars has already been hotly debated. To prove liability, one must prove negligence, showing that the responsible party acted in a way no prudent person would. In the case of driverless cars on autopilot, showing reasonableness reverts to the manufacturer or the software developer.

This means that an injured person would have to show that another autonomous system would have performed differently or that a human driver would have performed differently. In the case of autonomous performance by another system, the responsibility would be placed on the manufacturer or software developer. The manufacturer/software developer can also be held responsible when the software malfunctions or is found to be defective.

Shift From Driver Responsibility to Product Liability

The shift away from driver liability to that of the manufacturer or software developer means that many cases will incorporate product liability. Another aspect of this is that driverless car manufacturers consistently represent their vehicles as safer than human-driven ones. In the event of an accident, this claim may be seen as a misrepresentation by the manufacturer.

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