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Would Safety Be an Afterthought for Any Driverless Car Bill That Passes the Senate?

By September 14, 2018RoundUp Tort

In a year where Americans revealed they have serious doubts about the safety of self-driving cars — a study conducted shortly after the first Uber self-driving car crash fatality revealed that 73 percent of Americans would be afraid to ride in autonomous vehicles — it is clear that the self-driving sector has work to do concerning the public trust. As such, it would stand to reason that any driverless car bill passed by the Senate would prioritize public safety.

It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn that some critics suggest that any such bill would make driverless car safety a "back seat" issue.

Consumer Advocates on the Attack Against Bill Headed to the Senate for a Vote

In short order, the AV START Act (which stands for American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies) will be put to a vote in the United States Senate. While the bill is certainly a mouthful, it has gained support from auto lobbyists and tech insiders alike. While the AV START Act has "Safer Transportation" in its acronym, consumer advocates increasingly worry that the proposed bill lacks safeguards that are truly necessary to keep the public safe. Worse, critics claim that regulation is mostly left to the manufacturers of autonomous vehicles.

In sum, consumer advocates and critics argue that the AV START Act:

  • Only implements non-binding guidelines, all while letting hundreds of thousands of driverless cars be exempt from existing safety standards for ordinary vehicles
  • Prevents states from setting their own safety rules on driverless vehicles
  • This prevention would occur even though no existing federal regulations exist at this time

In short, it is difficult to see how this bill will put any American at ease if they are already fearful of self-driving cars. It is a general principle that corporations pursue profits, and it is a difficult ask to expect these corporations to self-regulate and choose safety over profit.

At present, however, consumer advocates worry that they are being "outnumbered" by the industry, as Public Citizen lobbyist Craig Holman notes that the industry is "outgunning" safety advocates in Congress. If the advocates end up being outgunned and the bill signs into law, it will come at a time shortly after an August of 2018 study released by Cox Automotive found that just 1 in 6 adults would feel comfortable riding in a fully autonomous vehicle without the ability to take over manually.

At The Ledger Law Firm, we will be monitoring these legal developments closely in the coming days and weeks. This bill could have a lasting effect on the safety measures put in place before self-driving cars become ubiquitous on American roads.

If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a self-driving Lyft or Uber accident, contact us online for a free case evaluation with a rideshare accident lawyer at Ledger Law today.