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|Driverless Auto Manufacturers Won't Get A Law Limiting Their Liability For Maintenance Oversights|
By Lonce Lamonte - December 3, 2017
California regulators have rejected a plan to allow self-driving car manufacturers alleviation from liability for crashes involving cars not maintained to industry-written specifications, according to a recent Associated Press report.
There are no maintenance standards for any current day human-driven vehicles. The California DMV was only considering the proposal after it was suggested by General Motors.
Vice President Armand Feliciano of the Association of California Insurance Companies told the Associated Press that if the rule had been adopted, scenarios could manifest themselves of auto manufacturers dodging responsibility for major car crashes because of things like slightly under-inflated tires, or failing to meet oil change schedules, or other very minor maintenance issues.
In November, activist group Consumer Watchdog wrote a letter to the California DMV suggesting former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh, who now works for General Motors, had improperly hit up government connections to have the rule change quietly inserted.
According to the Associated Press, after the proposed rule was axed, GM spokeswoman Laura Tool said the company was nonetheless “pleased to be part of the process.”
Self-driving cars are not on the road yet, except for in very limited testing areas. But before they’re really on the road and integrated in with human driven cars, it’s not predictable whether they will truly be safer than human-driven vehicles. Most of the self-driving cars are being designed in California, and regulators have given automakers a great deal of flexibility to test the vehicles.
Loose regulatory oversight of research and development activities, however, is different than prematurely writing rules to favor the automakers who will make the next generation of cars. But an increased risk of liability may nudge manufacturers towards being more cautious before they throw out driverless cars onto the nation’s roads.