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California Self-Driving Car Makers Seek to Avoid Liability in Crashes

Manufacturers of self-driving vehicles want to get their cars out on the road as soon as possible, but they don’t want to be responsible for them in the event of an accident. That’s how auto maker General Motors feels about the situation, and California legislators are in agreement.

General Motors made the recommendation for California to create laws that would protect auto makers if self-driving vehicles are involved in accidents caused by poor maintenance. This means that if tires are not properly inflated or the vehicle hasn’t been serviced per manufacturer specifications, the automakers will not be responsible for crashes and any resulting injuries or deaths.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is currently drafting regulations that will embrace General Motors’ recommendations. The regulations will exempt auto makers from crash liability where improper maintenance is to blame for the accident. In such instances, vehicle operators would be liable for the crash. Even if the California DMV limits manufacturer crash liability, car makers would still be required to adhere to strict federal safety standards, and would still be liable for any manufacturing or design defects.

Auto Insurance & Self-Driving Vehicles

Currently, 90 percent of car accidents are caused by driver error. Autonomous vehicles avoid crashes by using automatic braking technology and other collision avoidance systems. These technologies are intended to reduce the number of accidents and resulting injuries, and could eventually cause traditional auto insurance rates to plummet as accidents become more infrequent. In fact, some insurance industry analysts believe that car insurance may disappear altogether, once autonomous vehicle use is widely adopted.

Automobile Hacking

Auto Insurance & Self-Driving Vehicles

Since self-driving vehicles will primarily rely on software to operate, the potential for vehicle hacking is great. A self-driving automobile is vulnerable to hacking in the same manner as a personal computer. Automakers could face crash liability for software vulnerabilities that result in an accident or injuries.

In fact, some non-autonomous vehicles have already been hacked. The UConnect systems found in certain Fiat Chrysler models made the vehicles susceptible to hacking. It was discovered that hackers could locate Fiat Chrysler vehicles using the UConnect system, hack its internet-based software, connect to the vehicles and utilize malicious code to remotely control the vehicle. With such access, hackers would be able to control pivotal functions such as steering and braking.

The automobile hacking risk is expected to increase with widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. As vehicles become more and more reliant on software and internet-based systems to operate, they will be more susceptible to hacking.