Federal Regulations Target Safety of Self-Driving Vehicles on Florida Roads

Florida auto accident attorneySelf-driving cars are still a novel sight in many Florida communities, but they are poised to become prevalent over the next few years. The Verge reports that a House subcommittee is marking up a package of legislation related to autonomous vehicles. This seemingly standard procedure is part of a larger national discussion on vehicle safety - a debate, the Verge notes, which has become “a little hysterical." Yet, with nearly 94 percent of accidents being caused by driver error, it is difficult to say that self-driving cars are the more dangerous option. 

Why Fears of Self-Driving Car Accidents Are Misplaced

Opponents of self-driving cars have expressed many safety concerns about self-driving cars. Such fears seemed to be validated when a self-driving Uber vehicle crashed in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year. But was this accident the fault of the self-driving vehicle?

According to Wired, the autonomous Uber vehicle was approaching an intersection when the light changed from green to yellow. In response, the automated system accelerated the vehicle. A driver in the opposite direction was waiting to make a left turn across oncoming traffic. When the light changed to yellow, she assumed that oncoming traffic would stop, and began to make her left turn. The left-turning driver then collided with the self-driving Uber vehicle as it accelerated through the yellow light at the intersection. Witnesses gave differing accounts of the accident. One said the left turn driver struck the Uber, while another claimed that she was in the right, and the Uber was at fault for trying to “beat the light”.  

In spite of the witness reports, the Arizona left-turn statute (similar to Florida's left turn law, F.S. 316.122) is clear: A vehicle turning left must yield to any oncoming vehicle. If a vehicle accident involved any left turn, the driver attempting the turn is at fault for the accident. In the case of the autonomous Uber, the left-turning driver was legally at fault. Of course, the fact that the self-driving Uber was not legally responsible for the Arizona accident does not allay public safety concerns. But it is important to remember that this vehicle did exactly what it was supposed to do. The facts of this accident do not uncover any new or disturbing information about self-driving technology. On the contrary, they demonstrate that the technology works exactly as it is supposed to. 

Reuters reports that the legislative package will accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles by introducing uniform laws for the testing of autonomous vehicles. Currently, vehicle manufacturers are subject to patchwork legislation that varies by state. Having a uniform set of regulations will enhance their ability to test self-driving vehicles, which will, in turn, make these vehicles safer for consumers. Self-driving vehicles can help reduce the huge proportion of accidents which are caused by driver error, but drivers must also accept personal responsibility for establishing safe driving habits.  

When a victim is injured in a car accident, whether due to driver error or malfunction of an autonomous vehicle, he or she has legal rights which must be protected. A Seminole County car accident attorney will help protect your legal rights after any car accident.