Nevada (a major testing site for automated vehicles) is one of the few states that has actually passed regulation for autonomous driving, and attorneys in Las Vegas may have a new world of liability and licensing to navigate as technology and legislation expands to welcome more possibilities of driverless cars. Well, the cars aren’t driverless, per se, but carmakers including Ford, GM, and Volvo use parts and technology made by Delphi Automotive PLC, who enthusiastically emphasizes that completely autonomous high speed vehicles aren’t far off.
We’ve got cars on the streets that are hydrogen and solar powered. We’ve got cars that parallel park themselves, and vehicles that get you through stop-and-go traffic while you “sit back and send texts from behind the wheel.” And the technology of completely autonomous vehicles is just around the corner. But what does that mean for drivers, for lawmakers, and for attorneys in Las Vegas and other places where the numbers of autonomous cars are likely to be high? New insurance frameworks must be developed: who’s liable in an accident when the car was set on “autopilot?” The manufacturer? The driver? Right now, even the few laws in Nevada, Florida, and California regarding this matter are limited and wouldn’t provide the necessary background for charges and suits in an accident. The legal and regulative industries most always lag behind the technological one, and guidelines are needed before these autonomous vehicles can really take off.
But the vision is there, and even car accident attorneys in Las Vegas might be romanced by the manufacturer’s description of an autonomous lane (much like carpool lanes today), in which the autonomous car adjusts its cruise control to the speed of the car in front of it. The windshield frosts over and becomes a screen from which the driver can surf the web or read a book, or even choose to nap. Delphi Automotive envisions a lilting female voice securing the attention of the driver in advance of the planned exit from the autonomous lane, and assistive technology ensures that the driver is alert and in control before bowing out and letting the driver finish the trip (unless he needs assistance parallel parking: the computer can do that, too).
It’s a seductive dream, and given America’s miles of highway, one that might one day work as a safer and better transportation infrastructure option than the trains, buses and subway lines that can successfully map out geographically smaller nations, as in much of western Europe. What’s next to sort out is legal matters, driverless vehicle engineers insist. Attorneys in Las Vegas and across Nevada may be part of that “legal stuff” as it gets ironed out among road regulations, liability lawsuits and insurance rates and requirements. In the meantime, though, we’re all dreaming of owning our own personal computer-machine chauffeur on wheels (mine’s a two-door coupe, cherry red) that reads to us or lets us nap on our forty-five minute commute to and from work every day. Yep, sign me up!