Who’s to Blame? Rise of Autonomous Vehicles

You’re walking down the street and you see a car with no driver, you blink your eyes again just to make sure that you are seeing right. The rise in autonomous vehicles is upon us. Google is leading the pack in success for self-ruling vehicles amongst BMW, GM, Audi, Volvo and many other car manufacturers. Sebastian Thrun, the leading Google engineer has been developing the technology to allow cars to run without a human driver. As Google tested their vehicles out on the roads, they hit a milestone in August 2012 of close to 500,000 miles driving without a single accident. All accidents which occurred during the five-hundred thousand miles were a result of human error, such as cars in its proximity hitting it.

Laws Related to Autonomous Vehicles

The bill SB 1298 was introduced by Senator Padilla, this bill addresses the safety requirements for autonomous vehicles. As new inventions are created, laws must be put in place to protect our rights. The bill is mainly aimed at upholding safety standards for the autonomous vehicles and its restrictions if any, when operating in public locations. This bill was passed with a unanimous 72-4 approval from the California state legislature in August 2012.

In the Bill Section 1 38751-B states that self-directed vehicles may operate on public roads given that the vehicle adheres to safety and performance requirements. Section 1 38751-C-1 defines autonomous vehicles as vehicles which use computers, sensors and other advanced technology to operate securely without a human operator.

Many laws associated with driverless vehicles are still in the process of being formed. The bills that are passing are simply legalizing the testing of them on the streets where public drivers are exposed to them.

Why do we Need Autonomous Vehicles?

Autonomous vehicles are desired for many reasons mainly being the rise in car crashes to around five and a quarter million crashes each year according to USA Coverage. There will no longer be a need to have a designated driver, therefore getting home safe will never be an issue after a long night, ultimately decreasing crashes related to drunk driving. There will also be an increase in availability of carpooling, now offering an extra seat on your journey to locations together. One of the greatest perks of self-directing vehicles is the ability to be dropped off at your destination and your car can park its self and return upon being summoned. Valet service everywhere you go!

Autonomous Vehicles

Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/4022792165/

The Big Question: Who is to Blame in A Crash?

The question on the front of my mind is if there is an accident, where does the blame end? Yes, it is true that with the advancement in technology the probability of crashes is less. I believe this to be a true statement if both cars are running the same technology. But, for example what if one autonomous vehicle registered with Google technology vs. another one registered with BMW’s technology function differently and result in an accident which develops into a web of accidents? What does the human driver do when involved in an accident with two autonomous vehicles? Whose insurance do they grab? What if the cars leave and continue to drive? This would be a scenario that could occur if a car was trying to park its self and there was no driver or passenger in the car at the time.

Another instance to think about would be differing technology methods. What if one car uses lane markings?  Lane markings signal to the cars to stay in this perimeter to avoid crossing over lanes. What if those marking wear over time and result in a crash? Who takes responsibility for this crash? Who compensates the injured parties? This is an extremely difficult situation to decipher, is it the cities responsibility to make sure the lane markings do not wear? Is it the car manufacturer that uses lane marking technologies responsibility to maintain their system? With so many unanswered questions, the autonomous vehicle rules are still under strict evaluation.

A final example, and the most concerning of all would be what if I were sitting in an autonomously run vehicle being care free and waiting for the car to arrive at my location. But, due to whatever it may be whether it be the line markings fading, wrong GPS coordinates or just a malfunction in technology resulting in an accident. Where is the blame? Where is the compensation for those hurt? How is the situation remedied? Is it the manufacturers fault? Is it the owner of the vehicle fault? Where is the blame?

As the advancement in perfecting these autonomous vehicles progresses I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open for news in safety regulations and laws. I am pleased to know that Nevada one of the first states which will allow autonomous vehicles on their roads have issued a separate license plate for vehicles using this technology. This way, surrounding drivers on the road are able to easily identify whether there is a human controlling them or not and able to take special caution if needed. Please write and bring up new issues which concern you about the rise in driverless vehicles. The more we can think of possible scenarios, the greater chance of establishing safety standards.

The author of this article is Alisa Carscaden, an SEO devotee and SEM extremist. If you enjoyed this article, please follow me on Twitter @FacePalmLaw. Help prevent Denver car accidents.

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