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Autonomous bus crash occurs shortly after initial deployment

Technology across the nation is developing at a rapid pace. Ideas that once seemed to be only the stuff of science fiction are now becoming a part of reality. For example, the current development and testing of autonomous vehicles may mean that one day driverless cars will become commonplace. However, people in Florida may wonder, what happens if a driverless vehicle is involved in a collision?

Recently, in Las Vegas, an autonomous bus that had been deployed for the first time just two hours earlier was struck by a semi-truck. Reportedly, however, it was the truck driver who was at fault, not the autonomous vehicle. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The bus was touted as the nation's first autonomous vehicle used for public transportation. It could hold up to 12 people along with an attendant. Instead of having a steering wheel or conventional brake pedals, the bus was operated by a computer monitor, a GPS and electric sensors that could detect where the curb of the road was.

This accident comes on the heels of an act recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives called the Self Drive Act. Under this act, manufacturers of autonomous vehicles would be exempted from having to follow certain safety regulations, so that as many as 100,000 test vehicles could be launched annually. However, states would still have the authority to determine whether to allow autonomous vehicles on their roads. That act will now need to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Florida itself experienced a collision involving an autonomous vehicle back in May 2016. In that crash, a vehicle's autopilot system was activated when the motorist in the vehicle crashed. He did not survive the accident. However, an investigation performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that the autopilot system was not defective.

Crashes involving autonomous vehicles bring up interesting liability questions. Would the attendant in the vehicle, if there was one, be liable for the crash? Would the manufacturer or designer of the vehicle be liable for the crash? These and other questions may be resolved in the future, so that those who are injured in crashes caused by autonomous vehicles can seek compensation for the damages they suffered.

Source: ZD Net, "Self-driving bus crashes two hours after launch in Las Vegas," Jonathan Chadwick, Nov. 9, 2017

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