Self-driving cars are coming, and experts believe that automatic cars will be ready before long. However, the advent of self-driving cars will demand answers to legal questions. Here are a few of the issues lawmakers will have to address in the coming years.
Perhaps the most laws to write will be those used when self-driving cars provide only limited automation. The first automated cars will likely perform only some functions automatically, and most experts believe that drivers will still need to remain alert while behind the wheel. Accidents that occur involving these cars may make it difficult to assign blame. In addition, lawmakers will need to determine which scenarios driver should be responsible for. Fortunately, self-driving cars will almost certainly log every input from drivers and every input that comes from the car’s computer. This information will be useful when determining if a driver is at fault or if his or her vehicle is at fault.
Lawmakers will also need to determine whether drivers should take any blame if an accident is caused by their car’s computers. Many believe that manufacturers should be at fault if a computer in their vehicle malfunctions or is programmed and accurately. However, some believe that market forces will encourage drivers to buy only the safest vehicles if they bear responsibility in case of accidents. Some are concerned that drivers will gravitate towards the cheapest self-driving cars available; if this is the case, safety may not be a top priority for manufacturers. If drivers bear some responsibility, they are more likely to make safety and reliability a top priority.
Issues involving negligence may become more complicated when self-driving cars become popular. Drivers are expected to perform regular maintenance on their vehicles to prevent accidents. A driver who fails to maintain his or her brakes, for example, may be found negligent in an accident. Similarly, drivers will be expected to maintain the software used to power their self-driving cars. Lawmakers will need to determine how proper maintenance will be enforced for these new vehicles. In addition, lawmakers will need to determine how software will be updated on these vehicles.
Lawmakers will also need to reconcile laws designed to deter driving while intoxicated was self-driving vehicles. As self-driving vehicles advance, there may come a point when they are capable of driving without human intervention. When this occurs, lawmakers will need to determine whether intoxicated drivers can operate self-driving vehicles legally. While many instinctively argue that only sober driver should be in self-driving vehicles, others argue that automated cars can cut down on rates of intoxicated driving. Determining when vehicles are capable of performing without human intervention, however, will be difficult.
Age limits will eventually need to be examined as well. Cars that are capable of driving without intervention will not require trained, licensed drivers for safe operation. However, the freedom granted by a driving license prevents young people from having too much independence. That said, parents can benefit tremendously they do not have to drive their children to school and to extracurricular every day. Balancing the convenience of self-driving cars with preventing children who are too young from driving will be a challenge for lawmakers.
For now, if you happen to get into an accident with one of those things (depending where you are in the country, some places already have many of these around), we’d recommend getting in touch with your local car accident lawyer right away (we included a link to ours).
Self-driving vehicles will change how we view driving. However, determining fair laws for drivers will be a challenge for lawmakers. Self-driving cars are not yet a reality, but lawmakers will need to prepare for them in the coming years.