Are Automated Vehicles Safe?
The first thing that comes to mind when automatic vehicles are discussed is their safety. According to the studies conducted thus far, automated vehicles are in less accidents than the vehicles that we drive. However, the thought of numerous automated vehicles traveling on our streets and highways is a shocking image for most of us. A high count of these vehicles traveling alongside our vehicles, and malfunctioning street lights and sensors, may cause car accidents and injuries. This new technology opens a new industry and a new wave of legal claims and lawsuits for defective products. Also, the reaction to emergency situations is unknown at this point because it is likely that a human will react in a more reasonable manner to an emergency (robbery, storm, objects falling from other vehicles) than a computer.
Counties and cities will be responsible for maintaining sensors and street lights and signs that these vehicles will read. One has to wonder if a personal injury claim and lawsuit against a government entity will be filed as a result of negligent maintenance of a street traffic light.
What Laws Apply to Automated Vehicles?
Some states have already begun to define what an automated vehicle is an how it can regulated. The automated vehicle laws will have to be standardized at some point since the we typically cross city, county, and federal lands while driving to our jobs or to family members’ homes. Google and other companies have made significant progress toward placing these vehicles on our roads. If they are successful, the drivers will be liable for their actions while they are actually driving the vehicles.
The software companies and manufacturers may be liable for accidents caused by their vehicles while the driver is not engaged in driving. Lastly, the drivers will have to report to the Motor Vehicle Department when they disengage their driving and the vehicle becomes self-operating. The liability may be joint in some states between the driver and the software company and manufacturer, and the liability will be separate and severable in Arizona (between the driver/software company/manufacturer. It will be interesting to see if a jury will place liability on a driver that “could have and should have” regained control over the automated vehicle before it caused an accident.
The three States that have tackled insurance requirements for automated vehicles have required a $5 million insurance policy or a $5 million deposit for proof of financial responsibility. This amount is meant to cover possible liabilities for damage to persons and/or property from the use of an automated vehicle.
When Will Completely Automated Vehicles be Accessible to Consumers?
Fully self-driving automated vehicles are not available at this time. But, the constant improvements in technology will make semi-autonomous vehicles fully automatic in the near future. The U.S. Department of Transportation should make these manufacturers report their test results and their failures before these vehicles are placed on the road.