In May, Governor Andrew Cuomo put his signature on a bill that allows testing of self-driving and self-parking cars on New York public highways. The new law was part of a budget bill and will be in effect for one year.
Under the law, each vehicle that is being tested is required to have a human driver in the driver’s seat as it is being operated. Each vehicle is also required to carry at least $5 million in liability insurance.
Up until the law was signed, testing of self-driving vehicles was banned because New York law requires there be at least one hand on the steering wheel of a vehicle in operation at all times.
New York joins several other states that have passed laws to allow testing of self-driving vehicles, including Arizona, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. As more and more states allow testing of these vehicles – and looking to the future when they may actually become part of commuters’ daily lives – the question of liability in the event of a traffic accident has become a legal issue open for debate and one that needs to be determined once and for all.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Society of Automotive Engineers, there are six different levels of automation in self-driving vehicles. If a vehicle is at level two, one, or zero, then it is considered to be operated by the human sitting in the driver’s seat. Any level above two, then it is the vehicle that is behind the operation.
Many legal analysts predict that as self-driving vehicles become part of society, vehicle manufacturers will begin to bear accident fault responsibility. This will create the need for more specific tort legislation to be passed, as well new regulation in the insurance industry.
Upon hearing of the passage of the self-driving vehicle testing bill, Attorney Goldstein commented, “It is important for all accident attorneys to become very familiar with the new law – as well as keep themselves well informed of this developing industry – in order to be fully prepared to successfully represent a victim who has been injured in a self-driving vehicle accident.”