Technology companies in California and automobile manufacturers are racing to develop autonomous vehicles. The companies want the federal government to establish the safety standards for driverless cars to avoid a patchwork of state regulations. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration already allows automakers to test vehicles on public roads even if they do not fully meet safety regulations, but only 2,500 vehicles per year can undergo field testing without submitting detailed safety information. Drafted legislation seeks to raise the exemption to 100,000 vehicles to appease the desires of automakers.
Bills currently under committee review in the House of Representatives and the Senate represent attempts by lawmakers to create the rules for deploying autonomous vehicles. The organization Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety has urged lawmakers to require manufacturers to certify the safety of driverless vehicles before testing them on the road in large numbers.
Although trade groups representing automobile companies support drafted legislation, safety advocates have concerns about the lack of input from outside the industry. No one from the NHTSA has provided commentary to lawmakers. Proponents for expanding the role of autonomous vehicles argue that the technology could reduce car crashes that caused about 2 million injuries last year and killed over 40,000 people.
Car accidents are a significant source of medical expenses and lost income for victims. A person hurt in a wreck caused by a negligent driver could ask an attorney for support with a personal injury claim. Representation from an attorney might help the person overcome insurance problems or organize evidence for a court filing. An attorney could challenge an insurance adjuster with information from a police report or testimony from an accident reconstruction specialist. When necessary, an attorney could prepare the case for trial.