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Unclear if automated cars will decrease chances of car accident

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

Over the past few years, several car companies have been testing the technology behind autonomous vehicles. While many believe these vehicles may increase efficiency and reduce the risks of being involved in a car accident, it remains to be seen whether these machines will perform well over time. Pennsylvania lawmakers recently introduced a bill that calls for greater regulation of these vehicles on the commonwealth's roadways.

However, federal lawmakers also made a move that would allow for greater use of these vehicles on the nation's highways. It includes provisions for cooperation among the different federal agencies to allow for increased safety regulations and a more cohesive approach for testing and investigating this emerging technology. The bill, entitled the SELF-DRIVE Act, would take precedence over any laws that were previously passed by the individual states.

It also calls for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop new regulations that would apply to the safe use of these vehicles and address how to apply current safety regulations to the new technology. Several states have already passed laws that addressed the use of these vehicles on their highways. Some Pennsylvania lawmakers hope to pass a bill that would require a $5 million bond before these vehicles could be tested on a test road within the state. The SELF-DRIVE Act, if enacted, would possibly supplant the proposed Pennsylvania legislation if it is also enacted.

While having standardized regulations may lead to a more uniform approach to regulating the use of self-driving cars, states will still be expected to handle such matters as crash investigations and emissions regulations. Many car companies tout the benefits of these vehicles as a way to ensure the safety of fellow motorists by reducing the risk of a serious car accident caused by human errors. However, as every driver is aware, a mechanical or electronic malfunction can also lead to a serious crash. Regardless of how a serious wreck occurs, the victims involved will continue to bear the blunt of the consequences. A successful personal injury or wrongful death claim could help these victims recover any financial losses sustained due to these tragic accidents.

Source: postgazette.com, "House bill would put thousands more autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads", Courtney Linder, Sept. 6, 2017

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