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How state laws could affect self-driving cars down the road

A lot of people in New York by now have heard about Google's self-driving car. Nearly fully automated, this self-driving car eliminates human error, which is one of the biggest causes of car accidents in the United States.

But while few of our Albany readers might question the immense benefit self-driving cars offer drivers in our state and across the nation, the operation of these incredibly safe vehicles could be impacted by state legislation. To illustrate this point, let's take a look at what's already happening on the other side of the country in California.

At present time, the state of California is proposing legislation that would not only require self-driving cars to have steering wheels and pedals to operate the vehicle, but it would also require drivers within the vehicles to have a license as well. While some see this simply as an added layer of liability between drivers and car manufacturers, such legislation does not create the same buffer between insurance companies and unsafe drivers, thus negating the benefits of having a completely self-driving car.

If fully automated vehicles are the wave of the future, state legislators need to consider the full picture of liability, including the impact on insurance companies who can lose a lot because of a car accident. At present time, Assembly Bill 31 is being considered by the Assembly Committee. This bill would allow autonomous vehicles to operate within our state, provided they do so "without the active control of monitoring by a human operator."

If approved, AB31 could create that extra level of liability protection for insurance companies, which will likely come as a relief for many of our readers.

Source: USA Today, "Google 'disappointed' by proposed restrictions on driverless cars," Jessica Guynn and Marco della Cava, Dec. 17, 2015

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