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Legal challenges grow around self-driving car accidents

A recent accident in San Francisco between a motorcyclist and a self-driving car is highlighting the risks of autonomous vehicles in California. In another incident near L.A., a self-piloting sedan rear-ended a fire truck. Accidents like these have raised legal concerns about such cars. Industry analysts warn that the growing number of those vehicles will lead to more accidents and promote growing numbers of lawsuits.

Autonomous vehicle challenges

Politicians, courts and drivers see the vulnerability of self-driving car technology and the issues it raises. A law professor at the University of South Carolina attests that auto manufacturers, for the time being, are likely to quickly settle accidents involving their self-driving cars if the technology appears to be at fault. However, it is understood that car companies will vigorously defend themselves if the driver appears to be the problem.

It is argued that available data could resolve the question of fault as this technology becomes more common. Data may be compiled via information from the autonomous vehicle or other sources like video recordings and crash investigations. Consumer Watchdog is advocating for the public release of information involving any autonomous vehicle crashes.

Advocates argue for managing the turnout of self-driving cars

Highway and Auto Safety is an advocacy group looking to slow the development and the public release of self-driving cars. It wants Congress and other federal bodies to bolster current safety standards concerning driverless technology, even as manufacturers seem to be going above and beyond with precautions and safety measures.

It does appear that Congress has overwhelming support for the rapid development of autonomous technologies. The U.S. Department of Transportation continues to be largely supportive and industry-friendly regarding development and testing.

No real sense of coordination around the issue

As it stands, the federal government manages safety regulations while autonomous manufacturing is state-by-state regulated. Advocates for safe driving want more of a federal hands-on approach. Highway and Auto Safety argues that varied state regulations cannot ensure safety across the board and that guidelines must be established federally and implemented broadly. If each state has its own requirements, there cannot be the comprehensive data and reporting necessary to protect the public and track autonomous vehicles.

The California DMV is currently working to develop a set of safety protocols for these cars that stress public safety. Currently, California wants potential drivers to complete a training program offered by car manufacturers.