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Safety Exemptions for Self-Driving Cars

» Posted July 21, 2017Resources | Share This Post

Consumers expect their cars to operate properly and have customary safety features. There are laws, like the California lemon law, that provide strong protections to owners of defective vehicles.  Many regulations also exist at the state and federal level for further consumer protection.

While the safety rules that are in place for vehicles exist to protect consumers, not all car manufacturers want to follow the rules. In fact, The Verge reports that makers of self-driving vehicles are seeking “broad exemptions” from safety rules. There is a possibility that they will be successful in getting these exemptions too, as it appears there is some bipartisan support for making exceptions or changes to safety rules for self-driving vehicles only.

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Allowed to Avoid Safety Rules?

According to The Verge, the federal government currently mandates that all cars that are sold must have brake pedals and must have a steering wheel. This regulation is based on an assumption that a live person will always be present to control the car. However, there may not always be a live person in the car, and these rules are cause for concern to some tech companies developing self-driving vehicles.

Many major automakers who are creating self-driving cars claim that current regulations could stifle innovation and slow down the speed of developing driverless technology. Perhaps receptive to this argument, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are contemplating changes they could make to loosen safety standards for self-driving cars.

For example, a joint statement was released by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) indicating that the Senate was eager “to improve regulatory flexibility for testing and development of self-driving vehicles without changes to regulations that would affect conventional autos.”

One suggestion that could facilitate more safety exemptions for self-driving cars is for Congress to give the Secretary of Transportation authority to grant more exemptions. The Department of Transportation is already allowed to exempt up to 2,500 cars from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rules each year, and automakers want this cap lifted so many more exemptions will be possible.

There is, however, a clear risk that too many safety exemptions could result in cars being less safe.  This could be bad news for motorists as self-driving cars hit the road and become more prevalent. While some experts believe these cars will reduce accident risks by eliminating the possibility of human error causing crashes, if lots of safety exemptions are made and the cars have fewer safety features, they could turn out to be more dangerous than anticipated.

Motorists need to know what their rights are if problems arise with a vehicle they have purchased. A Lemon Law attorney can provide assistance to drivers in understanding their available legal options.  Contact The Bickel Law Firm, Inc. for help when vehicle problems arise.


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