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Making self-driving vehicles safe

Prevention of commercial vehicle accidents in Indiana and across the United States has been a long-standing problem. Congress, however, must now address the new technological and legal challenges posed by self-driving commercial vehicles.

Senators are trying to complete mark-up of a bill by Columbus Day that would regulate these vehicles and address fears about safety, cybersecurity and the possible loss of commercial vehicle driving jobs. The House passed a bill governing self-driving vehicles earlier this month but did not address trucking because the committee that approved this proposal did not have jurisdiction over trucking matters.

The president of the American Trucking Association said that self-driving vehicles would not replace truck drivers but could improve the safety and efficiency of long-haul trips. The ATA, however, asked the Senate to create one uniform federal standard that would govern commercial trucks.

The Teamsters Union posed concerns about the safety of these vehicles and whether there would be increased tracking of transportation workers. Citing Volkswagen's misrepresentations on emissions standards and the substandard Takata air bag, the Teamsters argued that manufacturers do not adequately regulate themselves and push the envelope on safety standards. Transportation workers are concerned that new autonomous vehicle technology may increase this recklessness without strong guidance from Congressional committees.

Several Senators also questioned the safety of cyber systems on computer-operated trucks. One Senator called for strong regulations protecting these vehicles from cyberattacks. However, the ATT said that regulations that are rushed could be as dangerous as having no rules on cybersecurity because of this rapidly-evolving technology.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued guidance on self-driving technology that contains voluntary self-assessments on safety. However, one Senator criticized these voluntary guidelines as being inadequate and called for stronger regulations.

As the laws and technologies change, an experienced attorney can help victims of a commercial vehicle accident obtain compensation for serious injuries and other losses. A lawyer can help assure that these rights are pursued in court and in settlement negotiations.

Source: Bloomberg, "Senate Panel May Mark Up Self-Driving Vehicle Bill by Columbus Day," Shaun Courtney, Sept. 13, 2017

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