We have a Lemon Law here in California as well as a federal version. It basically means that defective cars and vehicles must be replaced by manufacturer if after several attempts to fix the vehicle under warranty still does not work properly.
The Lemon Law protects buyers from getting an unfixable car. However, according to autosafety.org, there are no performance standards for self-driving cars where the manufacturer is held accountable. The organization goes on to propose the adoption of safety standards, just as there are for conventional cars and trucks.
Potential solution certifications
One potential way to do this would be to create a certification program for these new vehicles. Metrics for assessing safety could include:
- Safety criteria
- Road tests
- Third party review
Why does it matter?
Tesla and the other vehicle manufacturers developing self-driving vehicles, need to be held accountable for the vehicles they build and the technology they develop. While advocates believe in moving full-speed-ahead with these new technologies, not everyone is so sure about the idea. By providing safety measures, those who do not own self driving vehicles may feel more comfortable sharing the roads with driverless counterparts.
Just as there are different levels of licensing for operating vehicles, gated certification for the developing technology would also apply. Potential ways to regulate include:
- Regulating the autonomy of the vehicle and tech engineer, increasing them with new safety and performance accreditations
- Regulating the speed vehicles can travel at
- Regulating the environmental constraints, such as city driving, speed the vehicle travels, or in some other manner
- Expert evaluations by un-biased third parties would help ensure the safety of vehicles
Where things stand
It’s all voluntary right now. The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) has proposed a pilot program. The Department of Transportation is also recommended a gated certification process but there are no current details of how that would look.
Eventually these new companies and their vehicles will need to have similar or even higher standards than vehicles with a human behind the wheel. These need to be mandatory and then Lemon Laws should be applied to hold them accountable.