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Guidelines for self-driving cars aim to reduce car accidents

Self-driving cars may seem like something from a science fiction novel or movie, but in fact they are currently being developed and may one day, in the not-so-distant future, be seen on the streets of Florida and across the nation. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to create guidelines now regarding autonomous vehicles, as opposed to waiting for regulations regarding these vehicles to be adopted, a process which could take years.

According to the NHTSA, the guidelines would cover a number of realms. One issue involves creating performance standard guidelines for autonomous vehicles. Another goal is creating policy guidelines that states can use, so that regulations between states are relatively consistent. Finally, the NHTSA guidelines would involve an explanation of the authority and tools the agency will have that will allow them to govern autonomous vehicles. The NHTSA wants the guidelines to be issued within a few months.

The NHTSA claims that autonomous vehicles could greatly lower the number of fatal automobile crashes, most of which are due to mistakes made by the drivers of the vehicles. Per the agency, autonomous vehicles are already here, so the issue is not whether they will arrive, but instead how they can be safely integrated into American roads.

While the potential for autonomous vehicles to make America's roads safer is certainly interesting, it does bring up a number of legal quandaries. For example, in the case that an autonomous vehicle causes a crash that injures or kills another individual, who would be liable for that crash? Would it be the companies that designed, produced and manufactured the autonomous vehicle? These are questions that remain to be answered. Until these 'self-driving' vehicles become ubiquitous, however, individuals who are injured in car accidents through no fault of their, may still be able to have the opportunity to seek compensation from the responsible drivers.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "NHTSA to release self-driving vehicle guidelines by end of summer," Brent Snavely, Aug. 3, 2016

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