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Car with No Steering Wheel: More or Less Control?

Earlier this year it was announced that General Motors wants to start mass-producing autonomous cars that have no steering wheel, no pedals, and no other manual controls that have been in cars for the last 100 years. The cars will be available starting in 2019 and are currently being tested in San Francisco and the Phoenix suburbs, according to an article in NPR.

These new GM cars can be stopped by human control if there is an emergency or if one of the riders has a stop request. The car would then pull over to the next available safe place that it could find and let the riders out.

As these new GM autonomous vehicles (and others like it) are rolled out, there are going to be some major legal questions going forward like:

  • Who is liable for damages during an accident that involves a steering wheel-less car? Will it is the manufacturing company of the vehicle or will it be one of the passengers?
  • Is it going to be a requirement that information about the car’s trips (such as GPS coordinates) be disclosed to anyone who requests it? If so, is this considered an invasion of privacy?
  • When someone is in an autonomous car, is one of the riders considered the “driver”?
  • If a “driver” is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while riding in a steering wheel-less car, are they legally able to “drive” the car?

Technology companies like Google envision the future as a road filled with all autonomous vehicles, which they hope will eventually be statistically safer than flying someday. Although drivers will be giving up a lot of control, will this ultimately be safer for everyone on the road? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, manufacturers will continue to create and release these vehicles, and lawmakers and state officials will figure out the legal ramifications and consequences for any malfunctions or accidents that these autonomous vehicles may have. As these cars are introduced to more states and people start using them as a regular part of their transportation, these and more questions will certainly pop up.

As we wait for the future of vehicles to arrive, accidents that are caused by human or mechanical error are possible and can be devastating in property damage or injuries. If you or a loved one have been involved in a serious car accident in Georgia, you may be entitled to compensation for injuries and/or lost wages.

Contact the Fry Law Firm today at (404) 948-3571 to see if pursuing legal action would be in your best interest.

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