Consumer Watchdog has some serious concerns about how the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) plans to regulate robot cars, especially those set to be introduced by General Motors (GM). GM is planning to unveil a robot car taxi service in 2019 and was already rolling out its robot cars in San Francisco just last week. But this has Consumer Watchdog worried about attempts to appease an industry leader at the expense of consumer and public safety.
The conflict began with the release of the proposed safety regulations for robot cars. Section 228.28 of the regulatory language made consumers of robot cars liable for crashes that result from failures of the robot driver. Consumer Watchdog challenged this proposal claiming that the DMV lacked the authority to establish a regulation shifting liability from the manufacturer of self-driving cars to the consumer in the event of a crash.
Consumer Watchdog was not alone in its claim. It was supported by the Consumer Attorneys of California, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (ACIC) and the American Insurance Association (AIA). Under pressure from Consumer Watchdog and others, the DMV eventually removed this language based on the reasoning that existing law already provides rules for determining fault and liability in crashes.
But the language favoring GM is only a symptom of the larger problem with the regulatory scheme monitoring GM’s actions. Consumer Watchdog has addressed the lack of impartiality demonstrated by the DMV. It contends that the proposed regulations pose a threat to safety on the roadways. The nonprofit interest group wants to ensure that public safety standards are not compromised by loyalty to private interests.
One of Consumer Watchdog’s main complaints involves the crossover between the leadership of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the auto industry. The GM chief counsel, who proposed the disputed language, was once the general counsel of the NHTSA. As counsel, he had a relationship with the DMV and he is now a leading advocate for GM. This possible conflict of interest certainly merits some concern.
In the meantime, the critical language assigning liability to the consumer has been removed. But GM’s promises about the safety of its robot cars and the DMV’s reactions remain to be seen.
If you or someone you know suffered a serious injury due to a defective vehicle, please contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP immediately to discuss your rights. Call 888.777.1776 right now, for a free, confidential, and personal consultation with one of our attorneys or contact us online.