There is a paradoxical center for the advancement of autonomous vehicles. AVs – also known as driverless cars – could one day make the world safer: by eliminating the human driver and maintaining safe operating standards, these machines can significantly reduce the number of vehicle accidents, leading to an estimated 40,000 homicides in 2017, but this To reach performance levels, driverless cars will first kill some of us. To a certain extent, they must be allowed to do so – ideally within certain limits.
This was the intent of a bill passed by the House of Representatives last autumn that created a legal framework for the safe development of these technologies that have immense commercial potential. But these goals are now undermined by Senate laws. This new bill, titled The Concept of the American Vision for Safe Transportation through the Promotion of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START Act), eliminates all legal rights that individuals have against driverless automakers and commercial operators during the time when AVs are tested, but not Nevertheless, it is governed by the safety standards of the federal highway ̵
Like vehicle experimental medications and medical treatments, driverless cars require extensive testing that can cause physical injury and premature death. In order to develop programming that enables these vehicles to interact safely with other vehicles and pedestrians, AV testers demand that other drivers be on the road so that vehicles can learn to avoid accidents. But they will not always be successful. Driverless cars will collapse and people will die. In fact, the manufacturers and commercial operators of these vehicles have to experiment with us to learn how to program AVs.
Our legal system recognizes that individuals can be used under certain conditions for experimental purposes. For example, some people use experimental drugs because the potential therapeutic benefit is the best if not the only hope. Others receive money to participate in such an experiment. If these forms of amicable exchange are made on a sufficiently informed basis, the person is a willing participant in the scientific test (as opposed to a guinea pig who has no recourse to the experimenter).
Driverless cars have so far involved two known fatal accidents, which together make a significant difference in who takes the risk when using this technology.
The first happened in May 2016 on a freeway in Florida. While Tesla enthusiast Joshua Brown drove his Model S in "autopilot" mode, he collided fatally with a semi-trailer that crossed the road. He is said to have watched a movie at the time of the crash, and the car had apparently warned Brown to disable the autopilot mode and take over the active driving responsibilities just before the crash. Like individuals willing to face experimental medical risks in exchange for potential therapeutic benefits, Brown chose autopilot mode in exchange for the rewards and excitement provided by this experimental technology. As long as he made this choice on a sufficiently informed basis, he was not an unwilling guinea pig who had to help Tesla develop his autopilot mode. (The instance is also unrelated to the recent recall of Model S.)
This was not the case on March 18, when a driverless Uber car in Arizona killed Elaine Herzberg because she did not realize she was the road crossed the pedestrian crossing. Unlike Brown, Herzberg did not agree to take the AV test. If Uber's vehicle was defective or its test program was unduly dangerous in any way that caused the accident, Uber is legally responsible for its unlawful death. This type of tort liability protects individuals from harm caused by inappropriate risky interactions. Herzberg – and now her family – has a right of recourse against Uber, and the parties have just reached a settlement of these claims for an undisclosed amount.
In contrast, the pending Senate Act would apply to all forms of tort and related civil liability for bodily injury caused by the testing of driverless cars, at least until a new regulatory framework exists. This will probably not happen for at least 3-5 years.
Absent federal intervention, states can apply their own laws – although Congress prefers unified regulations nationwide. After watching a video of Uber AV over Herzberg, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Uber, ordered his test operations to be stopped in that state; The company says that this is the case in all cities. (The crash has also caused some senators to question whether the outstanding bill goes too far.) Regardless of whether the government must limit manufacturers' liability at this stage to encourage the development of this life-saving technology, we do not be forced to participate in this experiment without any right to compensation for injuries.
The congress dealt with a similar set of policy issues in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Congress heard evidence of childhood vaccination actually compulsory, and so those who are injured due to the fulfillment of this obligation deserve compensation. For their part, the manufacturers complained that litigation costs and liability insurance premiums dwarfed revenue and hampered the commercial supply of vaccines. As the then Circuit Judge Stephen Breyer said: "The Vaccine Act responds to these complaints." It guarantees a scheduled level of compensation for vaccine injuries, funded by a vaccine tax. For such compensation, vaccine victims renounce their rights as an illicit act. The streamlined process reduces process costs and insurance premiums for manufacturers.
Commuting in a world of autonomous vehicles on the road is as valuable a goal as vaccination for children, but just as inevitable. (On March 27, Alphabet Waymo announced that it would bring thousands of driverless cars onto public roads in the next two years.) Congress should therefore oblige AV testers to violate those persons who by their forced participation in AV tests be, at least, compensate to a degree. We have already proved that once. We can promote the development of a life-saving technology without jeopardizing the well-being of those who risk their lives to help make a better world a reality.