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Proposal to Allow Self-Driven Vehicles without a Licensed Driver in the Vehicle

October 29, 2016

Atlanta Defective Auto Accident Attorneys Consider Proposal to Allow Self-Driven Vehicles without a Licensed Driver in the Vehicle

Commercial airlines currently are equipped with an auto-pilot feature that can take control of the aircraft and fly the plane without input from the pilots. Despite this capability, passengers might be more apprehensive about flying if they knew the plane was not equipped with a qualified pilot ready to take control in the event of an emergency. It probably is reasonable to assume that many people would have the same hesitancy about car, trucks, and SUVs traveling the roads of Atlanta and the surrounding areas of Georgia without a licensed driver in the vehicle. Although self-driven vehicles have been a forgone conclusion for some time, many traffic safety experts assumed a licensed driver would be required to sit behind the wheel. In this blog article, our Atlanta defective auto accident attorneys examine a new proposal that could have vehicles without drivers occupying U.S. roadways.

New Regulations Eliminate Requirement of Human Driver

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently announced that advanced autonomous vehicles would not need to have a licensed motorist as a driver or passenger if the vehicle is deemed safe enough by federal regulators. California has been one of the states where much of the testing of autonomous vehicles has occurred. This new proposal represents a reversal from earlier proposed regulations in California that required a licensed driver to be in a position to exercise control over the vehicle. The change is reportedly a reaction to the negative response from the tech and auto industries that envisioned vehicles without pedals or a steering wheel. This approach is based on the idea that humans are too unsafe even to function as backup drivers.

The proposal to approve vehicles without a backup driver coincides with the release of new federal regulations governing self-driving vehicles. The proposal documents run to 115 pages in length and designate a 15-point safety assessment before the general public uses a driverless vehicle. Some of these safety evaluation points include the following:

• The manner in which the vehicle detects and avoids colliding with pedestrians and objects
• Functioning of backup systems when the software fails
• The extent of which the computer system is equipped with security measures to prevent hacking

The California proposal adopts another aspect of the new federal regulations that are concerning because the "The fox is left guarding the hen house." While the earlier California proposal required a third-party company to confirm safety compliance of autonomous vehicles, this requirement, which was not included in the federal approach, was dropped in the revised proposal. Since the Google self-driving project envisions vehicles that will not need a driver except to push a start and stop button, the company has much to gain from this shift away from consumer safety

Epidemic of Safety Recalls Raises Questions about Relying Exclusively on Technology

Our Atlanta defective auto accident attorneys cannot help but question the wisdom of this permissive approach. The number of defective vehicles with safety issues has reached historic levels. Some of these recent safety issues include, among others:

• Exploding Takata airbags
• GM ignition switches rotating into off position and disabling engines, airbags, power steering, and power brakes
• Vehicles spontaneously accelerating to high rates of speed

These examples of serious defects that have caused fatalities and permanent debilitating injuries have involved tens of millions of vehicles. Further, advancing technology and sophisticated electronics in vehicles have coincided with a much higher number of safety recalls in recent years. Given this trend, the decision to remove the possibility of a human driver taking control of a vehicle when self-driving systems malfunction seems to compromise vehicle safety. If regulations for autonomous vehicles continue in this direction, auto consumers will have to decide if they want the equivalent of an airplane with no instruments or controls for a human pilot to operate.

When self-driven vehicles malfunction or fail to respond properly, collisions such as the recent fatal Tesla crash involving a vehicle in autopilot mode will likely be the result. Vehicle and component designers, manufacturers, and retailers can be held liable for such defects, but prevention of accidents and an emphasis on public safety will always be a better alternative.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 38 Years of Legal Experience to Work For You!

If you have been injured by a defective vehicle, our Georgia product liability lawyers diligently strive for the fullest compensation under the law for our clients. Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout Georgia and in the Southeast for over 38 years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law
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Atlanta, GA 30329
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Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.