Two major things lawmakers should consider with autonomous cars

Although media attention on the subject has died down, residents across the state of California and the nation may still have some concerns about autonomous vehicles. This is especially true when it comes to liability. And while some experts claims that most state products liability laws will cover many of the issues that could come up with autonomous and self-driving cars, there are at least two things that lawmakers should consider addressing before the technology hits the markets.

The first thing that lawmakers in each state should consider is how to address liability when it comes to defects. Imagine that you own a non-autonomous vehicle that undergoes a conversion to become an autonomous vehicle. Parts are installed on your vehicle by a third party. But after awhile, they fail. Who is held liable for damages? It’s this important question that might not be easily answered by existing laws, meaning lawmakers now will need to address these concerns before they become contentious legal disputes.

The second thing that should be addressed now rather than later is liability for autonomous commercial vehicles.  While some legal experts believe that each state should create its own laws for personal vehicles, the same should not be true for commercial vehicles.  As the author of “Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation” explains, liability should be addressed federally through guidelines handed down by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration.  This will likely eliminate complicated jurisdictional disputes that often arise when an accident happens in a different state from that of the company’s headquarters.

Source:, “Who Pays for a Car Accident When There is no Driver?” Joshua Bleiberg, April 28, 2014

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