Technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, and some of these innovations impact the legal field. At the present time, self-driving cars are getting a lot of attention. Ten years ago, it would be hard to imagine anyone needing a San Diego self-driving car attorney, but things are changing.
Before you know it, you may look around and see many vehicles driving themselves. Automakers and other insiders suggest that they may become available as early as 2020. Let’s take a look at the timeline that led us to this vehicular paradigm shift.
This is a breakthrough that has been in the making for quite a while, and there are some early pioneers that deserve a lot of credit. Back in 1986, Daimler-Benz attempted to take the lead when they initiated the Eureka PROMETHEUS (Program for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety) project. They invested what would amount to almost 750 million euros in today’s currency, making it the most ambitious driverless car research project that had ever been undertaken.
A steady succession of different models were tested over a number of years, but the need for self-driving car lawyers was still a long way off. Finally, in 1995, they had a prototype that they were willing to put to the test. They utilized a W140 S-Class Mercedes Benz as the base that was modified with the autonomous technology. It ultimately traveled just over one thousand miles in driverless mode with little human assistance.
That same year, there was another project bearing fruit that would accelerate the pace toward the realization of self-driving cars that could travel long distances. The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University developed a self-driving car, and two researchers, Todd Jochem and Dean Pomerleau, signed on to take the test journey.
It was a trip that started out in Washington, D.C., and would end in San Diego if everything went according to plan. There was a lot of publicity about this in “America’s Finest City.” Many San Diego personal injury lawyers started to think about self-driving car accident liability around then when they learned about this project.
This trip was dubbed “No Hands Across America,” and the vehicle was guided by the Rapidly Adapting Lateral Position Handler (RALPH) system. The experiment was a success, and driverless car technology took another stride forward. On the 20th anniversary of this trip in 2015, researcher Todd Jochem shared some thought and memories:
“I’m jealous of the stylishness and integration of the most recent self-driving cars—luxury brands and cool little special-purpose cars. We used a minivan that had plastic side panels and cloth seats. But it was better than nothing.
We built the vehicle and software over about a four-month time frame for under $20,000. We had one computer, the equivalent of a 486DX2 (look that one up), a 640×480 color camera, a GPS receiver, and a fiber-optic gyro.
It’s funny to think that we didn’t use the GPS for position, but rather to determine speed. In those days, GPS Selective Availability was still on, meaning you couldn’t get high-accuracy positioning cheaply. And if you could, there were no maps to use it with! But, GPS speed was better than nothing, and it meant we didn’t have to wire anything to the car hardware, so we used it.”
As you might imagine, the United States military certainly took an interest in the concept of autonomous vehicles. Imagine how many lives could be saved in combat if human beings were not required to drive motor vehicles. The utilization of driverless vehicles would transform the playing field in a very profound way.
There is an agency housed within the U.S. Department of Defense called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They wanted to create an incentive for scientists and engineers to continue to try to advance autonomous vehicle technology.
To this end, they created the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004. It was a driverless vehicle race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and the terrain was not easy to navigate. They offered a $1 million prize, but it went unclaimed during that initial year, because none of the vehicles could cover much of that very rough desert ground.
However, there was a lot of progress made. “That first competition created a community of innovators, engineers, students, programmers, off-road racers, backyard mechanics, inventors and dreamers who came together to make history by trying to solve a tough technical problem. The fresh thinking they brought was the spark that has triggered major advances in the development of autonomous robotic ground vehicle technology in the years since,” said Lieut. Col. Scott Wadle.
The DARPA Challenge for autonomous vehicles was held again in 2005 and a number of years after that. Once the driverless vehicles became proven commodities, they shifted the focus of the program to other developing robotic applications that could aid the military.
San Diego driverless car accident attorneys are going to be in a position to start accepting cases in the very near future, because the technology has been perfected. There have been bureaucratic hurdles, but they have been addressed by legislators.
At the present time, totally driverless cars cannot be legally deployed on the roadways. However, most major automobile manufacturers offer vehicles with some self-driving features, and they are legal to use as long as a licensed driver is behind the wheel. Of course, it has been highly publicized that companies like Google and Uber are testing driverless vehicles on the road.
It has been difficult for lawmakers to come to an agreement with regard to the legalization of autonomous vehicles. Every state has to be in coordination if the vehicles are going to be able to travel freely around the country. Interested parties that want to market their driverless vehicles, like General Motors, Ford, and Google, have been making a major push in Washington.
Their lobbying efforts have paid off, because the Senate and the House of Representatives have both agreed to pass a bill that would make driverless cars legal. There was some wrangling between parties with competing interests, like unions representing truck drivers. To protect their jobs and enhance safety, semi-trucks are excluded from the legalization mandate.
Plus, automobile manufacturers will not be required to produce autonomous vehicles that can be shifted into human control mode. However, there is a caveat to this provision in the measure. In the final version of the Senate bill, in order to produce and sell autonomous-only vehicles, a company must sell no more than 15,000 units in the first year of the rollout. That number increases to a total of 80,000 through the first 36 months. Starting with the fourth year of availability, there will no cap at all.
This is an overview of the federal parameters, but each individual state will also have certain controls over driverless motor vehicles. They will be able to set their own standards with regard to the licensing and registration of autonomous vehicles. Each respective state will also have the ability to decide on insurance requirements, and they can mandate inspections.
Any San Diego driverless car attorney is going to be an advocate for roadway safety, because we see the devastating impact of serious accidents each and every day. Many people feel as though the widespread utilization of autonomous vehicles will result in a dramatic decrease in motor vehicle accidents. If they are right, a lot of lives will be saved.
Motor vehicle accident deaths have been on the rise over recent years. According to data that was compiled by the National Safety Council, in 2016 there were approximately 40,000 traffic accident fatalities in the United States. That is the highest number of mortalities that we have seen since 2007, when motor vehicle safety features were not as advanced as they are today.
The injuries and the fatalities take a heavy toll on a human level. At the same time, there is also an enormous financial impact. According to a study that was conducted a few years ago, motor vehicle accidents cost well over $800 billion every year. Experts tell us that nine out 10 accidents are caused by human error, so it is logical to suggest that autonomous vehicles may indeed make the roadways safer.
As a San Diego personal injury law firm that will assisting clients who are in self driving car accidents, we are very interested in the insurance implications. Motor vehicle insurance largely centers around the driving history and the age of each respective driver that is obtaining coverage. Of course, the value of the car or truck will also be taken into account, but human behavior is the biggest factor. Safe drivers are going to pay lower premiums than drivers with a lot of tickets and/or accidents.
This dynamic goes out the window when you are talking about driverless motor vehicles. Since there would be no human party that would be liable in the event of an accident, is liability insurance even necessary if you are registering an autonomous vehicle? This is a question that is a hot topic among insurance industry insiders.
Everyone has heard of the famous “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett. Geico is one of the largest automobile insurance companies in America, and it is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is led by Buffett. In a television interview, he stated that the company’s bottom line would take a very big hit when there are significant numbers of driverless cars on the roadways.
In spite of all the high hopes about enhanced safety, objective observers may want to take a wait-and-see attitude. Uber has been utilizing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Tempe, Arizona. They conform to the legal statutes, because they have human drivers in the cars to be able to react to any malfunctions.
One of their vehicles was in a motor vehicle accident in Tempe. This is how the driver of the other vehicle, Alexandra Cole, described the incident: “The light was green and there were about five seconds left on the crosswalk timer. As far as I could tell, the third lane had no one coming in it so I was clear to make my turn. Right as I got to the middle lane about to cross the third I saw a car flying through the intersection but couldn’t brake fast enough to completely avoid collision.”
It was technically her fault, and she received a ticket for failing to yield. Yet, it could be argued that a human operator would have had the wherewithal to avoid the collision. The Uber car was traveling at just two miles under the speed limit, and a driver with intuition may have been able to anticipate the possibility of the turn that was made by Ms. Cole. A witness thought the driverless vehicle actually caused the accident by “trying to beat the light and hitting the gas so hard.”
Robert Hamparyan has earned a reputation as the leading personal injury lawyer in San Diego. This is not a groundless claim for marketing purposes; this is the rating that he has been given by the highly respected rating service Super Lawyers. You get this type of recognition by delivering results. Over the course of his career, he has secured over $200 million in combined settlements and judgments for his clients.
Robert has consistently set the standard for excellence because he always keeps an eye over the horizon as things change. Even though fully autonomous vehicles are not yet legal, he has spent considerable time and effort anticipating the personal injury implications. There may not be as many human drivers guilty of negligence in the years to come, but manufacturers will certainly be open to legal actions.
If you would ever like to schedule a free case review with a San Diego self-driving car lawyer, the Hamparyan Injury Lawyers can be reached by phone at 619-550-1355. Of course, the doors are always open for clients that would like to discuss other types of personal injury matters with a licensed attorney.
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