As a Florida personal injury attorney for over 25 years, Joseph Lipsky is concerned about the impending arrival of so-called self-driving or autonomous cars. Given the race by all automobile manufacturers to see who can get their cars on the road the fastest, as an attorney representing seriously injured victims of car accidents, Joseph Lipsky, like many of his fellow motorists, is concerned that the self-driving race will lead to dangerous situations for consumers. Now it finally appears the federal government understands this concern as they just released rules which are meant to guide car manufacturers about how they should rollout their technology on our roadways.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the new rules will go into place immediately. The hope is that these rules will provide a unified understanding of what self-driving cars and trucks must have and be able to do in order to be considered safe. These rules begin with a 15 point Safety Assessment which manufactures must document in their vehicles. The 15 points include:
Operational Design Domain – How and where the vehicle is supposed to operate
Object and Event Detection – The vehicle’s perception and response functions
Fall Back – What will occur if the self-driving system fails
Validation Methods – Testing, validation and verification of self-driving systems
Registration and Certification – NHTSA registration of all self-driving systems
Data Recording and Sharing – Data must be kept and shared to building knowledge for
crash reconstruction purposes
Post-crash Behavior – How a vehicle should react to a crash
Privacy – Considerations for the operator’s privacy
System Safety – Required engineering safety practices for system safety
Vehicle Cybersecurity – Safeguards to prevent vehicle computer hacking
Human Machine Interface- Ways for the vehicle occupants to communicate with the vehicle
Crashworthiness – Protection of occupants in crashes
Consumer Education and Training – Making sure purchasers and users know about the
limitations of self-driving vehicles
Ethical Considerations – How vehicles are programmed to address conflicting dilemmas on the road
(such as, choosing whether to hit a person or an object)
Federal, State and Local Laws – Making sure vehicles are programmed to comply with each
jurisdiction varying laws
In addition to these 15 points, the rules provide a basis for what the Federal government expects versus each state’s regulations. Generally speaking, the regulations will be overseen and amended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which will have the policing responsibility to ensure self-driving vehicles are safe. It is hard to imagine, but such policing will include deciding if fully self-driving vehicles should have a steering wheel.
While most people think the idea of self-driving vehicles remains something which is years away, the reality is that there are nearly 20 companies which currently have vehicles driving millions of miles annually across America testing their technology. In light of the wrongful death of a Tesla driver in Florida, who was using his vehicle’s “autopilot” equipment, until today the lack of government regulation to make sure companies’ profits did not override safety concerns, was missing. Considering the DOT attributes over ninety percent of all wrongful death car and truck accidents to driver error, their hope that self-driving cars will drastically reduce that statistic, at least until such time as all vehicles are self-driving, may not be real expectation. We are however glad to see the government finally take some action to get ahead of the self-driving technology.