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NHTSA calls for review of autonomous technology regulations

Road deaths in Louisiana and around the country have risen sharply despite significant advances in auto safety technology, but a growing number of road safety advocates believe that fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to eliminate human error and make fatal accidents largely a thing of the past. The potential safety dividends of a driverless future prompted several federal agencies to launch a Road to Zero campaign in October 2016 that hopes to eliminate road deaths entirely within three decades, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is one of the agencies involved in Road to Zero, is now actively looking for ways to clear the regulatory path for self-driving cars.

The NHTSA said in a report released on Oct. 27 that it plans to identify and address any unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by companies developing self-driving cars, and the agency says that it is particularly interested in rules that could delay the introduction of vehicles with no driver controls whatsoever. It believes that action needs to be taken soon because any needed regulatory changes could take years to finalize and implement.

Congress is also addressing the issue. Measures have progressed in both the Senate and the House that would allow the NHTSA to grant safety rule exceptions to companies developing self-driving cars. The Senate bill also calls for permanent rules on autonomous vehicles to be in place within a decade.

Advances in automobile technology have also made it possible to determine what happened in the moments leading up to a car accident. The data stored on the black box type devices found in many modern cars can be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to show that speed limits were being exceeded or brakes were applied late or not at all prior to a crash, and this could help them to establish negligence in lawsuits filed on behalf of those who were harmed as a result.

Source: The National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration, "U.S. DOT, National Safety Council Launch 'Road to Zero' Coalition to End Roadway Fatalities", press release, Oct. 3, 2016

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