One of the bigger legal debates regarding self-driving cars involves regulation and the role of liability in the event an accident were to take place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently expanded its legal definition of “driver,” possibly paving the way for Google’s self-driving cars to take to the road. If you’re thinking of buying a self-driving car, it may be easier to stick to something simpler like a 1932 ford coupe.
Given this change, can we expect to see self-driving cars on Minneapolis roads any time soon? Not likely. According to the Star Tribune, manufacturers of self-driving cars will still have to prove that the vehicles can meet the federal government’s strict safety standards. Many federal laws remain in place that would need to be lifted or changed before self-driving cars can hit the roadways of Minneapolis, Minnesota en-masse.
Despite this, some car makers hope to release a limited number of autonomous vehicles in certain areas by 2020, though Google wants to push cars onto roads sooner.
Federal regulators, while cautious, have suggested that they would be happy to approve self-driving cars for widespread use—but only if they are safe. Google argues that its self-driving vehicles are safer than human drivers, explaining that human drivers make mistakes while the computer does not.
Even so, the process of getting an autonomous vehicle approved could be a long one. The vehicles are breaking such new ground that federal regulators will have to decide what tests would be appropriate to deem the vehicles safe. If the vehicles design is different than the cars currently on the road, the tests may need to accommodate these differences.
It also appears that individual states will have to approve the use of self-driving cars on their highways and roads. This may require changes to traffic laws and driving regulations. For instance, if self-driving cars are approved, should states allow children to ride in these cars without a licensed driver? If self-driving cars do get approved in Minneapolis, they could change the way we drive, live, and the way we interpret accident law.
CBS noted that despite the re-definition, the NHTSA did not approve Google’s self-driving cars for wide use, rejecting the company’s claims that its cars meet federal safety standards.
Many believe that autonomous cars have the potential to reduce the number of car accident deaths and injuries. As it stands, car accident deaths cost Minnesota citizens close to $521 million in lost work and medical expenses. If self-driving cars are as safe as Google claims, they could revolutionize insurance, personal injury law, and law enforcement.
The Law Office of Martin T. Montilino is a car accident law firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota that sees far too many cases where human error resulted in tragedy. Distracted driving, driving while fatigued, and driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol all lead to many accidents each year. Inexperienced drivers also contribute to the number of injuries sustained on Minneapolis roadways. Until autonomous vehicles become the norm, drivers should educate themselves about the ways human errors lead to accidents.