Vehicle manufacturers could be required to install crash avoidance systems on new cars and trucks according to the DOT, NHTSA and spearheaded by US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, for one. The technology coined ‘vehicle-to-vehicle’ or ‘V2V’ systems have no clear roll out date, though the NHTSA and Foxx have stated this year that a proposal is in the works. Legislation was introduced the senate last March1 by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) directing Secretary Foxx and any relevant government agencies to carry on conducting research begun in 2012 on the technology. Last month the DOT and Foxx announced that they were ready to move forward. Foxx stated that, “our goal is to have a proposal that will be developed before the administration closes its doors [in 2017].”
The push towards requiring auto makers to install crash avoidance systems in new cars and trucks is seemingly an effort to improve safety, reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents that occur each year and ultimately to save lives. In explaining Foxx’s goal regarding crash avoidance systems, Foxx cited the 2012 study conducted by the DOT involving over 3,000 vehicles, which found that the use of crash avoidance systems could reduce the incidence of motor vehicle accidents by as much as 80 percent when sober motorists were operating vehicles.
Potential Backlash to Crash Avoidance Systems
While there seems to be a lot of excitement from regulators and politicians regarding crash avoidance systems and how they may be effective at preventing car accidents, there are also a number of obstacles that need to be overcome before the use of these systems in real-world conditions can actually be regarded to be successful.
For example, a critical mass needs to be reached before crash avoidance systems can have a “network effect,” meaning that a system in one vehicle is able to effectively communicate with a system in a nearby vehicle (or other vehicles in close proximity) to prevent collisions. Additionally, while there needs to be a legal and regulatory framework set up to support the use of these systems, there also needs to be a general consumer acceptance of them. This last factor may be the most difficult to overcome, as vehicle manufacturers and regulators alike are concerned about public backlash to the use of crash avoidance systems, particularly when it comes to the issue of privacy. The NHTSA claims2 that several ‘layers’ of security would be required and only very basic information could be passed between vehicles, however this will almost certainly meet opposition regardless.
The Question of Liability
The Personal Injury field that focuses on helping motor vehicle accident victims may face a number of new challenges in placing liability.
On the side of product liability specialists, are several enhanced possibilities for manufacturers and providers to be at fault beyond defects as conjectured by law researchers Gary Marchant and Rachel Lindor3 at the 1st Conference for the Governance of Emerging Technologies held in Arizona in 2013. These risks include:
“(i) failure to accurately convey risks of false positives and false negatives; (ii) inexperience and lack of training/expertise in applying new technologies; (iii) unrealistic or inflated consumer expectations; (iv) disparities in the conduct of different manufacturers and providers in [design and application]… (v) novel liability claims such as privacy risks from failure to properly handle individual data and violation of emerging duties such as a duty to disclose individual information to at risk relatives.”
Marchant and Lindor go on to speculate that
“The technology is potentially doomed if there are a significant number of…cases, because the liability burden on the manufacturer may be prohibitive to further development. Thus, even though an autonomous vehicle may be safer overall that a conventional vehicle, it will shift responsibility for accidents, and hence liability, from the drivers to manufactures. The shift will push the manufacturer away from the socially optimal outcome- to develop the autonomous vehicle”
In the case of negligence4 in accident torts, the questions about a driver’s duty to reasonable care is raised if motorists fail to heed the warnings of crash avoidance systems – or worse – if they have disabled these systems altogether (because they may be annoyed with them), could they be considered to have been at fault (even in part) for causing or contributing to an accident.
What will happen in cases in which crash avoidance systems have created a distraction to the driver? What arguments will attorneys and actuaries make to the reasonableness of this scenario; after all, 37 states have laws on the books preventing novice drivers from even remote cell phone use while driving.
Required V2V crash avoidance systems will certainly mark a new era both socially and legally for the public and attorneys. As new developments regarding the possible required installation of crash avoidance systems in vehicles arise, Case Funding will continue to bring you the latest news and information on this topic.
1 S.488 – Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2013
2“U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Decision to Move Forward with Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology for Light Vehicles .” U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Decision to Move Forward with Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology for Light Vehicles. NHTSA.gov, n.d. Web