Autonomous cars hit Texas roadways: What you need to know.
Autonomous cars are already being tested on Texas roads, but what happens if one crashes?
Autonomous vehicles are already a reality in many states across the country. This is true even in Texas where Google recently tested out a driverless Lexus SUV in Austin, the first test taken outside of California. Proponents of these technological advances argue autonomous vehicles may reduce the risk of car crashes. Whether or not these claims are supported remains to be seen, but critics have raised questions including:
- At what point is a car considered autonomous?
- What laws currently address autonomous vehicles?
- What happens if there is an accident involving an autonomous vehicle?
The following is designed to provide a better understanding of these questions.
Autonomous cars defined
Determining when a vehicle is autonomous is not as easy as one may initially think. There are various programs already in place that provide a level of autonomy to vehicles currently on the roadways like adaptive cruise control and lane centering programs. In an effort to clearly answer this question, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided some guidance.
NHTSA defines autonomous cars as vehicles that can be operated “without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode.” The federal agency further breaks these vehicles into one of four categories: no automation, function-specific automation, combined function automation, limited self-driving automation, or full self-driving automation. Programs like adaptive cruise control would likely fall under the function-specific category, while vehicles that use both adaptive cruise control and lane centering are categorized as combined function automation vehicles.
Autonomous cars and Texas state law
Autonomous cars are already on Texas roadways. As noted in a recent article by the Washington Post, Google did not gain approval for the test mentioned above from Texas transportation officials. In fact, officials stated that they are not involved in the project.
The likely reason Google could move forward without involvement from the transportation department: Texas state law does not currently address autonomous vehicles. The thinking behind the test is likely that since there is no law against autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways, it must not be illegal.
Texas legislatures have taken steps towards updating state laws to address autonomous vehicles, only to be thwarted by both Google and the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, a group representing a number of car manufacturers. Both the Washington Post and The Texas Tribune discussed the proposal, noting that although Google refused to comment on their stance against such legislation, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers voiced concerns that legislation could limit developments.
Autonomous cars and crashes in Texas
The lack of legislation addressing autonomous vehicles has led to concerns over how to handle a crash involving a driverless car. According to The Texas Tribune, a deputy administrator for the Department of Public Safety stated at a recent Senate hearing that she was not even sure if the state could issue a ticket to a car that did not have a driver.
This is just one example of the confusion surrounding the legal implications of crashes involving autonomous vehicles. As a result, anyone who is involved in a crash is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced car accident attorney. This legal professional will review the details of your case and advocate for your rights, working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.