July 23, 2014 Articles

The Need for a Statute of Repose in Autonomous Vehicle Liability

By Michael A. Preciado

Fifty years ago, movie magic brought us the story of Jim Douglas, a down-on-his-luck race car driver who woke up to find a white Volkswagen Beetle parked in front of his house. He later discovered that the car, nicknamed "Herbie the Love Bug," had the ability to operate autonomously and drove to his house in the middle of the night. Hijinks ensue as the car uses its brain power to win races and help Douglas get the girl of his dreams.

Now, this once-treasured film may become somewhat of a reality. Autonomous vehicles, or cars capable of driving themselves, have recently taken to the streets. Google's version of these "autobots" (as I like to call them) have logged nearly 700,000 miles up and down the coast of California, and both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and numerous states have either passed or proposed legislation for regulating these seemingly futuristic vehicles. While many are still skeptical of driverless cars, the advantages of autobots are clear. Thousands of people die each year from car accidents, and according to a NHTSA report, 90 percent of these accidents are believed to be caused by driver error. With autobots driving, however, these numbers will disappear because cars can't get intoxicated, fatigued, or distracted. Autobots could revolutionize road safety.

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