California regulators are embracing a General Motors idea to help makers of self-driving cars avoid paying for accidents and other issues that arise. This raises concern that there will be an unfair burden placed on vehicle owners. If adopted, the regulations drafted by the DMV would protect carmakers from lawsuits in cases where vehicles haven’t been maintained according to manufacturer standards.
This would create a loophole for automakers to skirt liability for accidents, injuries and death caused by defective autonomous vehicles. The Vice President of the Association of California Insurance Companies Armand Feliciano says manufacturers might avoid liability if the tires on a self-driving car are even slightly underinflated or even if the oil hasn’t been changed as regularly and suggested. “When is the last time you followed everything that is listed in your car manual” Feliciano asked?
California is a bellwether state since we are the biggest testing ground for these cars and our rules tend to be adopted nationally. Under current law automakers can still be held liable for faulty equipment or other design flaws in vehicles that require a driver even if the owners haven’t followed all the maintenance instructions. The language in the recommendations create a “moral hazard” where manufacturers are encouraged to create unreasonable or impossible maintenance standards to shift the burden onto consumers or the public at large for technological failures. Consumer Watchdog says it will sue if these regulations are approved and insurance trade groups say they may also take legal action.
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