Self-driving cars are still a novel sight on the roads of New Mexico, but you can expect to see more of them in the near future.
The Verge reports that a House subcommittee is marking up a package of legislation related to autonomous vehicles. Although the concept of self-driving cars has whipped up controversy over questions of safety and liability, the reality is 94 percent of auto accidents being caused by driver error. If self-driving cars can improve these odds, we'll all be safer.
Why Fears of Self-Driving Car Accidents Are Misplaced
Opponents of self-driving cars have expressed many safety concerns about self-driving cars. Such fears seemed to be validated when a self-driving Uber vehicle crashed earlier this year in Arizona. But was this accident the fault of the self-driving vehicle?
According to Wired, the autonomous Uber vehicle was approaching an intersection when the light changed from green to yellow. In response, the automated system accelerated the vehicle. A driver in the opposite direction was waiting to make a left turn across oncoming traffic. When the light changed to yellow, she assumed that oncoming traffic would stop, and began to make her left turn. The left-turning driver then collided with the self-driving Uber vehicle as it accelerated through the yellow light at the intersection. Witnesses gave differing accounts of the accident. One said the left turn driver struck the Uber, while another claimed that she was in the right, and the Uber was at fault for trying to “beat the light”.
In spite of the witness reports, the Arizona left-turn statute (similar to its New Mexico equivalent in NM Stat. 66-7-329) is clear: a vehicle turning left must yield to any oncoming vehicle. If a collision involved any left turn, the driver attempting the turn is at fault for the accident. In the case of the autonomous Uber, the left-turning driver was legally at fault.
We must note that the New Mexico left-turn statute is more ambiguous: Vehicles making a left turn must yield to vehicles in the intersection, or “so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard”. Other vehicles must yield the right of way to the vehicle turning left. Therefore, under the same driving conditions in New Mexico, the Uber may have been at fault if it were not close enough to the intersection to constitute an immediate hazard to the vehicle turning left.
Of course, the fact that the self-driving Uber was not legally responsible for the Arizona accident does not allay public safety concerns. But it is important to remember that this vehicle did what it was supposed to do. The facts of this accident do not uncover any new or disturbing information about self-driving technology. On the contrary, they demonstrate that the technology works the way it was intended.
Reuters reports the legislative package will accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles by introducing uniform laws for the testing of autonomous vehicles. Currently, vehicle manufacturers are subject to patchwork legislation that varies by state. Having a uniform set of regulations will enhance their ability to test self-driving vehicles, which will, in turn, make these vehicles safer for consumers.
If you or a loved one has been injured, contact an Albuquerque car accident attorney as soon as possible. You have legal rights - whether the accident was caused by the negligence of an autonomous vehicle or another driver.