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A Look at Autonomous Vehicle Guidelines as Google’s Self-Driving Van Crashes

Google’s self-driving van crashed in Phoenix, Arizona. The vehicle, tested under the company’s Waymo division, made headlines after the accident, with many headlines insinuating that the crash was the fault of the vehicle.

Police reports quickly followed stating that the crash was the fault of a human driver.

A vehicle that was being driven by a human swerved in an effort to avoid another car and hit the Waymo vehicle. Waymo’s vehicle did have a human operator present, who only suffered minor injuries in the accident.

Both vehicles, Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica and a Honda, were both heavily damaged in the accident. Police are awaiting dash-cam footage that was taken by the autonomous vehicle to determine who was at fault in the accident. The accident comes two months after one of Uber’s autonomous testing vehicles killed a pedestrian. Footage of Uber’s accident shows that the accident was probably avoidable.

Waymo’s vehicles, which have driven on public roads since 2009, have logged 5 million miles and have been involved in 30 minor accidents. The self-driving vehicles were to blame for just one of the accidents.

Concerns over self-driving vehicles put autonomous vehicle crashes in the spotlight.

Regulators are scrambling to put forth new regulations to better manage the industry and new technologies. The American Trucking Association (ATA) has introduced policy guidelines for autonomous vehicles.

“Crucial points within the policies include the need for demonstrations of automated technology to prove the safety and benefits the technology promotes. While the technology holds much promise, there is also great potential for harm and the ATA feels that significant testing should be conducted to ensure the safety of motorists and those who would be tasked with loading/unloading cargo,”quotes Cogan & Power, P.C..

The ATA’s policies require autonomous technology to demonstrate its safety benefits. The ATA is calling for significant testing with a revision of safety-related laws as technology is being rolled out. The trucking industry wants state and federal lawmakers to work together to ensure that:

  • Laws are not duplicated
  • Flow of commerce is not interrupted
  • Flow of goods is not interrupted

Investment in infrastructure is an additional focus of policy guidelines. Proposals for the maintenance and repair of roads are a key focus of policies, with an effort to ensure that automated vehicles can properly navigate the roadways. Preventable accidents and risk to public safety are associated with infrastructure-related repairs.

Liability in accidents will be put on auto manufacturers in the event that the accident was caused by:

  • Design flaws
  • Defective vehicles

Vehicle owners that fail to properly maintain their autonomous vehicles will be held liable in an accident. Tampering with the automated system will also place the liability on the owner of the vehicle. Owners that tamper with automated systems may do so to increase speeds or break safety laws.

Investigations into accidents will continue to be thorough. Autonomous vehicles in the testing phase offer computer data and video that helps investigators better determine fault in an accident.

Uber’s CEO is quoted as saying “self-driving cars are student drivers.”

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A Look at Autonomous Vehicle Guidelines as Google’s Self-Driving Van Crashes