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Liability Issues Create Potholes on the Road to Driverless Cars

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California Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed California's law on self-driving cars.

Credit: Getty Images

Although widespread commercial use of driverless cars is still years away, Google and others are already testing the technology on roads and automakers have raised concerns about liability laws. The liability question could expand lawsuits to include the car's owner, a passenger, or the company that designed and/or built the car. "Their concern is that somebody comes along and modifies their vehicles, and they could be held liable if that technology doesn't work," says Arizona state Rep. Jeff Dial.

California, Nevada, and Florida are the only states that have passed laws on driverless cars. In California, the legislation directs the Department of Motor Vehicles to come up with rules by 2015, while Florida's law gave its motor-vehicle agency until 2014 to prepare a report on the cars.

Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles already has 22 pages of rules for driverless vehicles, and has licensed Google, Audi, and Continental AG to test them on public roads. The vehicles must undergo 10,000 hours of testing on closed tracks and testers must put up a bond of at least $1 million to cover any potential liabilities.

From The Wall Street Journal
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james shaffer

Permanent designated driver? Sounds like a safety improvement. Compared to all of the DUI accidents in this country a year self-drive cars should be much safer overall, but nothing meets the standard of perfect safety.

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