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Driverless Cars: Balancing the Risks vs. the Rewards

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC|October 28, 2014

Driverless Cars: Balancing the Risks vs. the Rewards

Audi recently made headlines when its driverless car reached speeds of nearly 150 miles per hour. Google also unveiled its latest iteration of the self-driving car this past summer. Unlike prior designs, which retained steering wheels, brakes, and gas pedals, the tech giant’s latest model completely removes the driver from the equation.

While the timeline is not yet established, self-driving vehicles are likely the destined for a road near you. In addition to Audi and Google’s efforts, Daimler, Volvo, Toyota, Tesla and BMW are all working on autonomous vehicle technology.

The primary benefit of driverless vehicles — whether we are talking about cars, trains, or buses — is safety. There are 5.5 million traffic collisions in the United States every year, of which 81 percent are attributable to human error. According to Google, its self-driving vehicles have traveled 700,000 miles without an accident. Given the statistics, its experts predict that crashes could decrease by a much as 90 percent.

As beneficial as autonomous cars may be, they still face significant hurdles. First, regulators must get on board by allowing the vehicles on the road. Second, manufacturers must convince consumers that they are safe.

Regulating Driverless Vehicles

Some states have implemented regulations to address driverless cars, which are already on the road for testing. In California, operators of autonomous vehicles must undergo special training and be capable of taking over control in the case of an emergency. Manufacturers must report any type of accident or any situation where the autonomous technology disengages during operation to the state’s Department of Motor vehicles within 10 days. They must also maintain $5 million insurance or surety bond.

While these laws are a good first step, federal and state laws will likely need a significant overhaul before driverless cars are made widely available. From a road safety standpoint, key questions include: who is liable for accidents caused by self-driving cars, the human passenger or the carmaker; who is responsible for traffic violations, such as failing to yield or stop at a red light, if the vehicle was operating autonomously; how will impaired driving and distracted driving laws be enforced if occupants are not technically “driving?”

Cybersecurity is also a top legal concern, given that computers would largely usurp the roles of drivers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is closely tracking the technology, citing concerns that hackers could take over automated vehicles and use them as “lethal weapons.”

Automakers are also addressing the risks. “The biggest stumbling block to any of these things is car security and also liability,” said Gavin Ward, a spokesman for BMW. “Those are the sort of issues that are still being worked out.”

What’s Next for Self-Driving Cars?

Autonomous vehicle technology is predicted to become an $87 billion market by 2030, according to Lux Research. However, self-driving cars may not be good news for all businesses. If autonomous vehicles do become the norm, they could have a significant impact on the traditional business models employed in a number of industries, including car manufacturing, transportation, and auto insurance. Accordingly, we will be closely monitoring the technological and legal developments.

If you have any questions about how autonomous vehicle technology may impact your business or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work. 

 

Driverless Cars: Balancing the Risks vs. the Rewards

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

Audi recently made headlines when its driverless car reached speeds of nearly 150 miles per hour. Google also unveiled its latest iteration of the self-driving car this past summer. Unlike prior designs, which retained steering wheels, brakes, and gas pedals, the tech giant’s latest model completely removes the driver from the equation.

While the timeline is not yet established, self-driving vehicles are likely the destined for a road near you. In addition to Audi and Google’s efforts, Daimler, Volvo, Toyota, Tesla and BMW are all working on autonomous vehicle technology.

The primary benefit of driverless vehicles — whether we are talking about cars, trains, or buses — is safety. There are 5.5 million traffic collisions in the United States every year, of which 81 percent are attributable to human error. According to Google, its self-driving vehicles have traveled 700,000 miles without an accident. Given the statistics, its experts predict that crashes could decrease by a much as 90 percent.

As beneficial as autonomous cars may be, they still face significant hurdles. First, regulators must get on board by allowing the vehicles on the road. Second, manufacturers must convince consumers that they are safe.

Regulating Driverless Vehicles

Some states have implemented regulations to address driverless cars, which are already on the road for testing. In California, operators of autonomous vehicles must undergo special training and be capable of taking over control in the case of an emergency. Manufacturers must report any type of accident or any situation where the autonomous technology disengages during operation to the state’s Department of Motor vehicles within 10 days. They must also maintain $5 million insurance or surety bond.

While these laws are a good first step, federal and state laws will likely need a significant overhaul before driverless cars are made widely available. From a road safety standpoint, key questions include: who is liable for accidents caused by self-driving cars, the human passenger or the carmaker; who is responsible for traffic violations, such as failing to yield or stop at a red light, if the vehicle was operating autonomously; how will impaired driving and distracted driving laws be enforced if occupants are not technically “driving?”

Cybersecurity is also a top legal concern, given that computers would largely usurp the roles of drivers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is closely tracking the technology, citing concerns that hackers could take over automated vehicles and use them as “lethal weapons.”

Automakers are also addressing the risks. “The biggest stumbling block to any of these things is car security and also liability,” said Gavin Ward, a spokesman for BMW. “Those are the sort of issues that are still being worked out.”

What’s Next for Self-Driving Cars?

Autonomous vehicle technology is predicted to become an $87 billion market by 2030, according to Lux Research. However, self-driving cars may not be good news for all businesses. If autonomous vehicles do become the norm, they could have a significant impact on the traditional business models employed in a number of industries, including car manufacturing, transportation, and auto insurance. Accordingly, we will be closely monitoring the technological and legal developments.

If you have any questions about how autonomous vehicle technology may impact your business or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work. 

 

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