Self-Driving Vehicles Gain a Powerful Ally: The US Government

Friday, December 23, 2016

Self-Driving Vehicles Gain a Powerful Ally: The US Government

Self Driving Cars

American safety regulators have issued long-awaited guidelines for self driving cars. This initiative clarifies that the US government considers automated vehicles safer than human drivers on the nation's highways. The move promises to open the door for rapid adoption of the technology.

Federal auto safety regulators have issued long-awaited guidelines on driverless cars, making it clear that they consider automated vehicles safer than human drivers on the nation's highways. Promising strong safety oversight while opening the door wide for driverless cars, Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said "We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting."

Guidelines for Regulating Autonomous Vehicles

The newly released first guidelines are designed to balance concerns over public safety with the commercial interests of companies like Google, Tesla, Ford, Volvo, and Uber. Four main areas were covered by the Department of Transportation guidelines. A 15-point safety standard for the design and development of driverless vehicles was announced, including how driverless cars should react in case their technology fails, how to protect passenger privacy, how to protect occupants in crashes, digital security of driverless cars, and communication between cars, passengers and others users of the road. Anthony Foxx, DOT secretary said that the DOT would have authority to recall semi autonomous and fully autonomous cars found to be unsafe.

Self-Driving Vehicles

Uniform Oversight

In addition, the DOT called on states to develop uniform policies for driverless cars, the application of current regulations to driverless cars was clarified, and the door was opened for new regulations on the autonomous vehicle technology. In order to avoid a patchwork of state laws, the DOT would have oversight of the software technology used in autonomous vehicles while the states would continue to regulate driver licensing and insurance.

President Obama, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial, pointed out the potential of automated vehicles to save tens of thousands of lives each year while calling on innovation to develop and deploy responsibly the technologies of tomorrow using flexible policies that evolve with new advances.

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Driverless Vehicle Insurance

Although several states where automakers are testing self-driving cars have already enacted specific regulations involving autonomous vehicles, insurance coverage for autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles is still handled the same as insurance for traditional automobiles. Although there may be potential questions whether the driver or the software would be at fault in an accident, the insurer would still pay the claim, since auto policies carry no exclusions for software defects. Hartwig of the Insurance Institute believes it is too early for insurance rates to be affected by self-driving systems since there is little actuarial date so far to indicate whether the frequency of severity of accidents is significantly affected by technology this new.

Evolving Liability

The question of liability itself may evolve in cases involving driverless cars. Liability coverage is a large part of automobile insurance premiums for most drivers, reflecting the insignificant cost of their vehicle's physical damage repair compared to paying hospital bills or court fees when another driver is injured. For example, California insurance rates require a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 in property damage. Self-driving vehicles on the other hand would theoretically not create negligence liability for passengers, non-drivers and vehicle owners.

As more driverless vehicles enter the public highways and mix with human-driven cars, there will be an intermediate transition period where humans will accustom themselves to the new technology. Infrastructure may change as smooth roads and clean, well-marked lane divisions needed by driverless cars may become more uniformly available. Insurance costs may drop with better roads and safer autonomous driving. What changes will enable autonomous cars to recognize snow-covered roads or react optimally in adverse weather conditions? New risks of damage to sensors or satellite malfunction may arise. If autonomous vehicle ownership evolves into a shared ownership model, how will risks be evaluated for drivers in different households. Insurance may also evolve into a no-fault form with each party responsible for their own repair costs, or a premium based on usage or mileage may be employed, or still other models as driverless car usage matures.

By  Lindsey PattersonEmbed

Author Bio - Lindsey is a freelance writer specializing in business and consumer technology.


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