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Since the 2018 tragic death of an Arizona pedestrian-cyclist caused by an autonomous vehicle (AV) or driverless car, senators have been pressured by K-street power elites to vote for the bipartisan bill entitled American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act, better known as the AV START Act. After the disturbing dashcam video of the collision was released to the public, the legislation stalled in the senate before a vote could be taken. A number of senators have since stated they would not support the START Act without major revisions to the bill. From the perspective of a personal injury lawyer, I would point out that although there will be injuries and fatalities caused by autonomous vehicles, there are no legal precedents for acts of negligence caused by artificial intelligence. Yet, resourceful lobbyists for tech forecasters and automotive corporations are pushing for the bill’s attachment to a popular piece of legislation that would fund research and safety programs for the Federal Aviation Administration, thereby assuring passage of the START Act.

The START Act is not an incremental step of support by the federal government, but a leap to garner the federal decision-making power of unproven AVs while still in their infancy. Enactment of AV START would exempt AVs from current federal motor-vehicle safety standards while allowing automotive and technology corporations working in conjunction, to flood the roads and highways of America with hundreds of thousands of test vehicles further paving the way for the certainty of a driverless future. Although proponents of the Act maintain that AVs would reduce road congestion; accidents; and fatalities caused by human error, this piece of legislation has caught the attention of safety advocates, including the former administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Joan Claybrook.

Her letter published August 7, 2018 on the Opinion page of USA Today, is a plea to the senate and unwary Americans to put the brakes on the AV START Act and insert safeguards into the Act before passage. In part, her letter reads:

“Everyone sharing the road will be potential “crash test dummies” in this dangerous experiment.”

Claybrook fears the Senate is overlooking the objections of 70 organizations representing the safety and welfare of the public. Opponents to the bill are concerned that the Act will pass before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has finished investigating other crashes involving automated vehicles. Incumbent U.S. Senator, Diane Feinstein, objects to the bill as it is written. She and a handful of other democrats are waiting for a reasonable but specific timetable wherein federal regulations are written before mainstreaming autonomous vehicles on public roadways throughout the nation.

Although several states have invited automotive technology innovators into their jurisdictions for the purposes of doing business and test driving their vehicles, accidents involving injuries and fatalities have already occurred. As a result, injury attorneys and product liability lawyers are engaged with legal experts, studying pertinent case law and predicting both sides of the legal arguments. If you or someone you know has been injured by an autonomous vehicle, contact a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Do not speak with the insurance company or manufacturer without a competent auto accident attorney Indianapolis, IN trusts present to protect your rights and interests.


Thank you to our friends and contributors at Ward & Ward Law Firm for their insight into auto accidents and  personal injury cases.

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