For the last several years various companies have worked to make self-driving cars a reality. Google has been working on a self-driving car since 2009. Automaker Tesla has gone a step further, their “Autopilot” feature has been available on consumer vehicles since 2014. Tesla CEO Elon Musk estimates that by 2019 “Autopilot” will allow vehicles to drive people to their destinations safely while the driver sleeps.
This sudden growth in self-driving car technology raises questions about safety, and many states, including Pennsylvania, have been working on laws to deal with the issue. The Pennsylvania legislature has been working on two bills that deal with self-driving cars.
In February, Pennsylvania State Senator Randy Vulakovich introduced a bill to the state Senate that deals with the testing of self-driving vehicles in the state. The bill requires that the state Department of Transportation approve any testing of a self-driving vehicle in Pennsylvania. In March that bill received comments from several experts in the field of self-driving vehicles, and lawmakers are working to include those comments into the bill.
More recently in June, Pennsylvania State Representative Jim Marshall introduced a bill to the state House that covers the actual usage of self-driving vehicles. The bill covers the use of self-driving vehicles for on-demand ride-sharing. Popular ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as more traditional cab companies, will likely make use of self-driving vehicles as they become available. The bill also requires that self-driving vehicles be registered and titled and have insurance. This means that if a self-driving vehicle is at fault in an accident the holder of the insurance policy could be sued by those involved for their personal injuries and the damage to their vehicle. At fault determinations can already be complicated, and with self-driving vehicles it may be even more important to have a skilled personal injury lawyer advocating for an injured driver or passenger.
While there is still some time before self-driving vehicles become part of the average Pennsylvanian’s commute, Pennsylvania lawmakers have made it clear that they want the state to be on the cutting edge when it comes to the new technology.