Autonomous immunity proposal rejected by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has rejected General Motors proposal that would have given immunity to automakers over self-driving car crashes and failures. This proposal by GM would’ve been a scapegoat from legal liability for autonomous system failures. GM lobbied to have a protection blanket if a self-driving autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash. This way they don’t get blamed for a vehicle that is not maintained properly or when the vehicle is modified in a way that makes it different from manufacturer specs.

Consumer Watchdog claimed that GM was attempting a “power grab” in a written letter to the DMW. The proposed law would have allowed automakers to avoid responsibility if an autonomous car suffers technological failure. Things like dirty sensors or under inflated tires are brought into question and become a road hazard for others on the road.
“Consider a case where the robot car software was obviously to blame and mud was not wiped from a sensor,” the group said. “The company could still claim the robot car hadn’t been properly maintained and deny liability even though the alleged ‘maintenance failure’ had nothing to do with the crash.”

It is good to see the DMV tell the automarkers that they need to be responsible with any failures that an autonomous vehicle may have. Nevertheless, dirt, rain, and snow may cause problems for the sensors. There are many things with autonomous car technology that will need to be addressed before allowing it to be rolled out in the mainstream.

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