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Federal regulators release initial guidelines for self-driving vehicles

Readers are all likely aware of the developments in recent years in the area of automated driving technology, including the limited testing of fully self-driving vehicles. The technology is, on the one hand, exciting because of the potential it may have to significantly increase highway safety by cutting out human error. On the other hand, development of the technology has been slowed due to remaining concerns about how to regulate self-driving cars.

Recently, federal regulators issued guidelines addressing the regulation of self-driving vehicles. Significantly, the proposed guidelines would put the regulation of self-driving vehicles in the hands of the federal government. Manufacturers, under the proposal, are recommended a 15-point checklist concerning safety design, development, and testing, though they are not required to follow the guidance. The possibility of requiring pre-market approval for new technologies is reportedly being considered as well. 

What is more definite under the proposal is that states would be responsible for registering vehicles and handling the issue of liability. The latter is an important issue, particularly as automated driving technology continues to develop and bugs are worked out.

Different states are bound to have different approaches with regard to the issue of liability, and it will be interesting to see what solutions are proposed. Will manufacturers be liable when technology fails? Will insurance companies open up a new market for automatic driving liability? Under what circumstances might drivers be accountable for accidents? All of these questions have yet to be answered at the state level.

Those who are involved in any car accident, of course, should always work with an experienced personal injury attorney to protect their legal rights and seek the compensation due to them. This will be particularly important as more self-driving cars hit the road and the question of liability is worked out.

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