Fewer Restrictions on Self-Driving Cars – What it Means

Fewer Restrictions on Self-Driving Cars – What it Means

A decade ago, the concept of self-driving vehicles seemed like something straight out of science fiction. However, in recent years, autonomous vehicles have become increasingly common—and it likely won’t be too long before the majority of vehicles on the road have self-driving capabilities. Couple this with autonomous features in everyday vehicles, such as auto-braking, and it’s no surprise this technology is taking the automotive world by storm. At the same time, some recent changes to United States regulations on autonomous vehicle manufacturers are raising interesting questions and concerns about road safety and evolving technology.

Recent Changes in Autonomous Vehicle Regulations

In September, United States Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that new, streamlined regulations would be passed in an effort to lessen some of the “red tape” involved with manufacturing self-driving vehicles. These changes had been long-awaited by many major players in the automotive industry. One of the key changes is that automotive manufacturers are no longer required to obtain approval in order to put their automated vehicles on the road. This would begin with initially requiring approval for the first 25,000-100,000 autonomous vehicles released and tested by a manufacturer. However, once proper proof and documentation of safety is submitted and approved, that manufacturer is no longer required to obtain any sort of Federal approval to put more cars on the road.

When Autonomous Vehicles Fail…

The act of streamlining regulations to make it easier for manufacturers to get autonomous vehicles on the road has many people wondering what this will mean for the future safety of drivers and passengers. After all, serious disaster can strike when autonomous vehicles malfunction. This was made especially evident back in 2016, when a Tesla Model S with autopilot engaged was involved in a fatal crash. In this accident, a tractor-trailer crossed in front of the path of the Tesla and the vehicle’s autopilot system failed to recognize the truck in front of it, likely mistaking it for an overhead road sign. The brakes were not applied at all, and the driver was killed as a result.

What Does This Mean for Drivers?

The Tesla incident is just one of many that have occurred as a result of autonomous vehicle technology. And now, with fewer regulations for auto makers, it seems as though it may become even easier for these cars to hit the road without being properly vetted and tested for safety. So, what could this mean for others on the road? It puts drivers at risk, whether they’re in a self-driving vehicle or not. Errors and malfunctions of these autonomous vehicles don’t affect only the people in the self-driving vehicles — they can cause serious injury or death to others sharing the road, and even pedestrians. More than likely, what will be seen if there are no changes in regulations is an increased number of accidents caused as a result of technological malfunction.

More than ever, it’s important for drivers to be alert and fully present behind the wheel. And of course, if you’re ever involved in an auto accident that is caused by negligence or malfunction of an autonomous vehicle, it’s important to seek legal guidance from an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Our team at McNeely Stephenson is here to help, starting with a free consultation and case evaluation. Give us a call at 317-825-5200 to get started.