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Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says his vehicles will be self-driving in as little as two years. Meanwhile, Google’s self-driving cars have logged over 1.4 million miles on the road without a human behind the wheel since testing began in 2009. Other auto manufacturers like General Motors and Ford are starting to reveal their plans for driverless cars, reinforcing the fact that self-driving cars are definitely going to be a part of our future.

Self-driving cars also have the support of government officials who hope this new technology will help reduce traffic deaths. But as with any new innovation, the question of regulation and legal responsibility comes into play.

NHTSA and U.S. Government to Start Regulating Self-Driving Cars

The National Highway Travel Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working with other government agencies to develop new regulations regarding self-driving cars. Some states are already considering self-driving vehicle laws, which could result in inconsistent regulations across the country. Officials from the auto industry have been pushing the government to create national regulations. Just recently, the NHTSA announced they will be working on unified national regulations for self-driving cars.

In order to promote real world testing, President Obama approved a $4 billion budget for 10 years of pilot project development and implementation. With this incentive also came the promise that the NHTSA would consider granting exemptions to auto makers for real-world testing. Up to 2,500 self-driving cars could receive exemptions to allow for self-driving trials on U.S. highways.

Self-Driving Cars Bring New Safety and Liability Questions to Light

The biggest question on most everyone’s mind regarding self-driving cars is who would be liable if one caused an accident? Currently, there is no official answer to this important question, although the government and manufacturers will have to develop one before self-driving cars are put in consumer hands.

Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, led a press conference in January 2016 that unveiled preliminary regulations for self-driving car tests. During the conference, he acknowledged that the NHTSA did not yet have answers to important regulatory and liability questions.

  • How will the government regulate car insurance policies?
  • Who is liable when a self-driving car crashes?
  • Which autonomous technologies will be legal?

Foxx is currently looking to executives from the auto industry for the answers. At the press conference, he was quoted as saying to the executives, “If you’ve got a good idea that you think doesn’t compromise safety, bring it to us.”

Self-Driving Cars Will Not Eliminate Auto Accident Claims

As with any type of technology, no matter how advanced there is still room for errors to occur. In a future with self-driving cars, new ways of looking at liability may become predominant in injury claims. A self-driving car that allows a collision and injury to occur may give rise to a legal claim against the car’s manufacturer for faults in the software.

There is no guarantee that self-driving cars will completely eliminate car accidents, and until that future becomes a reality, we must continue to take our safety into our own hands by being safe and responsible drivers. Car accident attorney Julie Johnson supports Dallas locals who are injured due to another’s negligence. Contact us at 214-290-8001 to schedule a free consultation about your options for recovery after a serious accident.