California regulators are embracing a recommendation from General Motors that would help makers of self-driving cars avoid paying for accidents and other trouble, raising concerns that the proposal could place an unfair burden on vehicle owners.
If adopted, the regulations drafted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles would protect carmakers from lawsuits in cases where vehicles haven’t been maintained according to manufacturer specifications.
That could open a loophole for automakers to skirt responsibility for accidents, injuries and deaths caused by defective autonomous vehicles, according to Armand Feliciano, Vice President of the Association of California Insurance Companies. For instance, manufacturers might avoid liability if the tyres on a self-driving car are slightly underinflated or even if the oil hasn’t been changed as regularly as manufacturers suggest, he argued.
“When is the last time you followed everything that is listed in your car manual?” Feliciano said.
The California DMV declined to comment on its proposed regulations because they’re still being finalised.
As the biggest testing ground for self-driving cars in the United States, California is being viewed as a bellwether for how other states might frame their regulations down the road.