Last month, Google announced that its self-driving cars will hit the roads of Mountain View, California this summer 2015. These are exciting times indeed, especially for car and tech enthusiasts. The digital giant has been testing their vehicles since 2009, and finally, it might be ready for public use. With about 100 prototype Google cars to be seen on CA streets soon, it’s a good idea to think about the social and legal ramifications this kind of technology may have on vehicle safety.
Are Insurance Companies Threatened?
There are two sides to this predicament. On one hand, if these autonomous cars are able to reduce road accidents, then that means fewer claims. That translates to less stress for both the insurance company and the vehicle owner. On the other hand, it might mean the end of not just car accidents – but also the need for insurance. Why would anyone want to buy crash and collision coverage if those incident are rare?
Are Other Car Manufacturers Worried?
This could be answered by yes and no. Yes, because if other car manufacturers such as BMW, Audi, and Kia do not follow suit, they could be left in the dust of better, safer technology. Google may have taken the car safety issue further, but for a long time, most car builders were already utilizing advanced technology to help drivers on the road. Mercedes-Benz and Acura cars for instance, have lesser crash claims thanks to forward collision warning features, as well as active braking.
Google doesn’t seem to be interested in producing cars per se; rather, they could be seen providing safety software and systems needed by future vehicles.
Who Will Be Liable For Auto Accidents?
There are already four states that amended their laws regarding autonomous vehicles. These are: California, Nevada, Michigan, and Florida. In California, the amended rule states that they don’t ban nor regulate the use of self-driving vehicles. As this level of technology is still new, it’s expected that legislators may or may not make changes based on observations. Even Google is anticipating public response from its safety system.
What’s sure though, is that the driver or owner of the self-driving car shall be liable for any road violations, such as parking problems. In the event of collisions, it must first be proven if the manufacturer’s system is to blame. If so, then laws for product liability shall apply.
Is The Public Ready?
Most if not everyone is excited about the concept of self-driving vehicles. Aside from the possibility of ending road accidents and fewer insurance claims, a future where you can just relax while your car drives you to your destination is definitely tempting. The real issue however, is what would happen if the system suddenly malfunctions, similar to the Toyota recall from 2009 to 2011. The car manufacturer had to pay a hefty sum to avoid prosecution for accidents involving unintended acceleration.
Although some people are scared about the same incident happening again, they are eager to try something that could help reduce road accidents.
The laws regarding liability and self-driving cars are still vague. If you or someone you know may want to know more about its legal implications, feel free to contact your California lawyer for more details.