Self-Driving Car Companies Could Be Protected From Lawsuits
The technology to allow for self-driving cars has been rapidly developed, and today there are many vehicles being tested on the road that operate autonomously without anyone driving them. Many believe that self-driving vehicles will be able to make the roads safer by eliminating human error. However, when the functions of driving are entrusted to technology, serious hazards exist if something goes wrong.
Car parts – including computer-assisted technologies, malfunction all the time. California lemon law attorneys routinely provide help to motorists whose vehicles fail to function properly because of problems with onboard technology. If and when self-driving cars become mainstream, the risks when something goes wrong will only increase.
Unfortunately, the law right now is not equipped to adequately deal with the realities of self driving cars. In fact, As CNN recently reported, a loophole in a law under consideration could protect companies creating self-driving cars from being sued in court.
Loophole Could Protect Operators of Self-Driving Vehicles
According to CNN, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill related to self driving vehicles in September called the AV Start Act. While the goal of the bill was to pave the way for the development of self-driving cars, many consumer advocates are concerned about some of the provisions within the bill.
One concern is that the bill that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives does not prohibit contracts requiring disputes be arbitrated instead of litigated in court. If there are arbitration clauses consumers must sign related to self-driving vehicles, this could preclude injured victims from pursuing a lawsuit against the car manufacturer. It could also potentially prevent class action lawsuits from being brought against self-driving car makers in the event that a particular vehicle has defects that affect thousands or even millions of consumers.
Arbitration tends to be friendlier to big companies, rather than to individuals who want to use the legal system to pursue a remedy. Because of the costs and the structure of arbitration, it is not always worth it to pursue a case in arbitration – especially when forced arbitration clauses preclude groups of affecting victims from joining together to make their case.
If the law regulating self driving vehicles goes through without preventing forced arbitration, it is also possible that problems with self-driving vehicles may be more hidden from public view than they should be. Arbitration proceedings are private, so if a claim is resolved in arbitration, it is possible that the public will not be informed about serious risks that exist with self-driving cars.
While some lawmakers are calling for changes to the bill because of concerns that the federal laws related to self-driving vehicles could preempt state and local traffic safety laws, most do not seem to be talking about the arbitration issue that creates the loophole that could allow self-driving car makers to avoid court.
Consumers need to be able to use the legal system to pursue remedies when things go wrong. California lemon law attorneys provide important help to consumers who face problems with today's generation of cars, and there must be appropriate legal processes in place to help consumers who experience issues with the cars of the future.