Recent action by a United States Senate has produced a storm of reaction from self-driving vehicle manufacturers, insurance companies, labor unions, and safety advocates. The bill that has been constructed but not passed impacts the future actions of any personal injury attorney in Florida.
The only know death involving a self driving vehicle occurred in Florida in 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that no mechanical or technical defect caused the unfortunate death in January of 2017. A personal injury attorney from Florida is representing the deceased man’s family against Tesla for damages.
The proposed legislation called The American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies has bipartisan support. The cosponsors are John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, and Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan. The legislation is expected to advance the driverless vehicle industry for the next 10 years if the bill is passed.
The bill like many legislative matters is subject to interpretation. The bill will certainly find its way into many courts if it becomes law. One interpretation indicates that steering wheels and brake pedals will no longer be necessary because people will not be involved in driving. The opposition insists that the driverless vehicles must have a human inside that is capable of taking over in the event of mechanical or computer failure.
The speed with which the committee developed the legislation and promoted the bill is indicative of the financial power that major proponents of driverless technology have at present. The major automakers are also behind the new legislation in word and finance.
The proposed legislation stirred controversy already between the Teamsters and commercial companies like Uber, Tesla, and Alphabet. Commercial companies see driverless tech as a near term financial benefit. The union is adamantly opposed to any move that would eliminate jobs. The commercial proponents of driverless vehicles cite the safety advantages of non-human drivers. There are economic advantages to machinery that can drive 24 hours a day.
The proposed legislation requires that the NHTSA write safety regulations that cover all potential accidents involving driverless vehicles in 10 years. The task appears daunting in light of the number of different technologies and the secrecy that companies are guarding their tech with.
There is some startling reality involved in the legislation. Human error causes 97 percent of all fatal vehicle accidents. Vehicle accidents have been increasing across the United States for the last two years in the number of deaths and the financial cost to insurance companies. Insurance companies have expressed support for the new legislation.
All technological change has produced conflict throughout man’s history. Driverless vehicles promise higher safety levels and some risk. Realists would doubt that the roads will be cluttered with driverless cars 10 years from now. There seems to be more going on behind the scenes of the proposed legislation than the public is yet aware of.