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House takes huge step forward for self-driving cars

The dawning of the self-driving vehicle revolution feels like it has been tantalizingly on the horizon for years and maybe even decades. And while it may still not be here yet, the U.S. House of Representatives took action today that could greatly accelerate the mass release of these vehicles onto U.S. roads, streets, and highways.

The House passed a measure today that will allow automakers to release up to 25,000 self-driving vehicles without the vehicles meeting some safety standards that are applied to other automobiles. That number will eventually increase to 100,000 under this rule. Of course, it now goes to the Senate where changes to the rule are expected. Many safety groups are clamoring for more safeguards should this rule take effect.

Whenever self-driving cars become the norm, it will mark a drastic shift in American society. The idea of human liability in car accidents will begin to fade, perhaps entirely depending on how widely used these vehicles become. The liability will have to shift to other parties in case of an accident, and it is here that a lot is left to be desired about self-driving cars. What are the rules when they get into accidents? What if parts malfunction? What if the GPS breaks down or vehicle sensors falter? Who is at fault when self-driving cars crash?

These questions need to be addressed soon, because road deaths jumped dramatically in 2015. The 7.7 percent year-over-year increase was the highest in 50 years.

Source: Reuters, "House unanimously approves sweeping self-driving car measure," David Shepardson, Sept. 6, 2017

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