Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot lately and some of the news has not been good. But, as the technology advances and self-driving cars become more prevalent on the market, they could wind up lowering the frequency that drivers file lawsuits.
The companies developing self-driving cars right now include FiatChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and others. These companies were asked by a group of ten United States Senators whether they will use a contract with car owners that limits their right to sue should an accident occur with a self-driving vehicle.
The letter sent to automakers across the country was headed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. The group of Senators are concerned that automakers will use forced arbitration clauses in contracts with vehicle owners and even passengers that would limit the liability faced by vehicle manufacturers and ride-sharing programs should a crash occur.
Liability cannot be reduced when it comes to automakers, especially after the self-driving car crash in Phoenix in March that killed a pedestrian. As autonomous cars become more popular, automakers should be held accountable for mistakes that cause accidents involving these vehicles.
Multiple consumer groups, including the Center for Auto Safety, have said that forcing drivers or passengers to go to arbitration prevents them from potentially joining a class-action lawsuit. These groups have also said that this would shift power to big businesses and that big businesses are typically the ones who hire the arbitrator, which would be a set up for repeat business.
The letter sent to automakers had the following message, according to :
The use of forced arbitration clauses by manufacturers would deprive consumers of their fundamental legal rights if injury occurs and would reduce the incentives of some manufacturers to keep vehicles safe.
Aside from the automakers listed above, the letter was sent to a total of 60 companies, all of which have some sort of involvement in the manufacturing and use of autonomous vehicles. So far, none of the automakers that received the letter have responded to it.
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