Stories by Rachel Straus

Expert Voices

How today's liability laws cover AV accidents

Illustration of car crashing against a giant umbrella
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Autonomous vehicles are widely expected to reduce traffic fatalities, though the number of lives they could save is debated. When accidents do happen, however, self-driving cars aren't likely to present liability issues that current laws can't handle.

The big picture: The legal system already considers semi-autonomous vehicle technologies like anti-lock brakes, adaptive cruise control and electronic stability control. Although AVs may shift more liability risk to manufacturers, current laws around negligence and product liability should suffice for further increases in vehicle automation.

Expert Voices

Clear federal regulations would lower legal risks for AV developers

a black leather car seat with a seatbelt made of red duct tape
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In October the Department of Transportation (DOT) released its latest policy statement on AV technologies, which is broadly in line with past guidance. But if the DOT wants to “ensure safety without hampering innovation,” maintaining the status quo is not the correct approach.

Why it matters: Although some companies may worry about heavy-handed regulation curtailing the advancement of AV technology, the unknown risks of litigation and liability have the greatest potential to derail progress at this stage of development.