Self-driving cars, while not yet fully autonomous, provide motorists with the opportunity to cede some of the control behind the wheel. There is much evidence that this is a whole lot safer, as driver error is the primary cause of auto accidents in Florida. However, it has also meant the question of liability has become a vexing one. If a crash happens, who was in control – the driver or the auto manufacturer?
Recently in California, the state Department of Motor Vehicles announced it would not adopt a rule (recommended by General Motors) that would allow manufacturers of automobiles to evade liability for car accidents wherein the self-driving vehicle hasn’t been maintained to the letter of the manufacturer’s specifications. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog calls the decision a “major victory for consumers,” according to the Associated Press. The rules, as proposed by the automaking industry, would have effectively absolved producers of these vehicles of product liability for things like the owner’s failure to properly clean the vehicle sensors or having a tire that was slightly under-inflated or not precisely meeting oil change recommendations.
Although it is true that vehicle owners have a responsibility to adequately maintain their vehicles (or face potential liability when failure to do so results in an injurious crash), these kinds of stringent maintenance requirements don’t exist for the standard human-driven vehicle. Continue reading →