How will self-driving cars change the rules of the road? In California there are already signs.

Self-driving cars are making headway towards complete legalization. It won’t happen all of the sudden, we are already seeing them being tested as taxi services similar to UBER but with no drivers. Soon they will become common as more people start to buy them. But before any of that can happen, regulations regarding self-driving vehicles must be agreed to and enacted.  

In California lawmakers are trying to stay ahead of the issue while at the same time promoting the use of autonomous vehicles. Regulations concerning liability are being proposed. California is trying to get past some of the liability issues by embracing a General Motors recommendation that would help makers of self-driving cars avoid paying for accidents and other trouble.  

There are new regulations being drafted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that would protect carmakers from lawsuits in cases where vehicles haven’t been maintained according to manufacturer specifications. But this has led some consumer groups to call foul. These consumer groups are concerned that the proposal will put an unfair burden on vehicle owners. 

Current laws make it so that automakers can still be held liable for faulty equipment or other flaws in vehicles that require a human driver, and do not require that the owner follow the maintenance instructions. The new proposed law would change this. Under the new law the owner would be liable for an accident if it is found that the vehicle was not kept up according to the manufacturer’s specifications. 

Some believe that this creates a dangerous scenario, where manufacturers are encouraged to create unreasonable or impossible maintenance specifications so that the burden of self-driving car liability can be thrown onto the consumers or the public at large. 

Self-driving cars are supposed to be safer than vehicles operated by humans who are prone to indiscretions and poor judgment. But accidents are still bound to happen and who’s to blame is something that will no doubt be settled in the courts.