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How Autonomous Vehicles Could Impact Driving Laws

January 22, 2018


The speed at which technology is developing and interacting with our daily lives has been growing at an accelerated pace in recent years. Things considered science fiction only a decade ago are coming to market faster than ever before. Automakers, tech giants, and startups throughout the country are urging lawmakers to pass legislation allowing self-driving vehicles to hit the streets en masse. While the technology may be ready, the rest of the system probably is not, just yet.

It is often taken for granted, but when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive, many laws, regulations, and technologies go into effect immediately. These federal and state statutes were created with the foundation of a human driver being behind the wheel. So when software takes over, how will these systems change? Let us say you are in a self-driving car and it runs a red light, being caught by an automated red light camera, do you get the ticket or does the carmaker? Worse yet, if the self-driving car is involved in an auto accident, how is fault assigned and how will the insurance coverage work?

These are the questions being asked by all of the parties involved in making self-driving cars a reality, as well as by those who are fighting against them. Last September, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill, which will allow self-driving cars without human controls to take to the streets. This too has been another major point of contention, vehicles without the ability for a driver to take control of the vehicle if necessary. Proponents of the technology insist that self-driving vehicles will reduce the nearly 40,000 annual traffic fatalities in the U.S. A fact that is encouraging Congress to act quickly.

Individual states are also weighing in as state law can often conflict with federal and state lawmakers want a say in how their roads operate. Along with traffic and insurance legislation, infrastructure is also being discussed. Driverless cars may allow for narrower traffic lanes and parking spots. Autonomous shipping trucks may have different payload and weight distribution regulations. Moreover, there is the concern about the potential job loss for professional drivers.

Though there are no clear answers yet, a lot of time and energy is going into solving the new set of problems created by autonomous vehicles. With all sides being considered and decisions carefully weighed, chances are high that we will see driverless cars on our roadways sooner rather than later. After all, over 3,000 people die each year from highway fatalities in Florida with nationwide deaths averaging 102 people killed each day.

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