December 2010 Archives

December 27, 2010

If Google Cars Drive Themselves, Who Would You Sue?

Google-Car-auto-toyota-prius.jpgGoogle has developed a new car called the "Google Car". It is a Toyota Prius that is equipped with software that allows it to drive itself. The Google cars use video cameras, installed on the roof, radar sensors and laser range finders to travel through traffic on its own. These cars also navigate the road by using detailed maps. According to Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, "Our automated cars use... Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain."

The Google car was made with the intention to help prevent traffic accidents, free people's time, reduce distracted driving and drunk driving, and reduce carbon emissions. So far, the Google Car, has traveled about 140,000 miles and has only been involved in one traffic accident, a rear-end.

Google has yet to determine when these Google Cars will be available to the general public, but when they are, a question arises, if there is an accident, who would you sue?. The current statutes and case law in the United States were written for cars with human drivers, in order to determine the liability in an automobile accident. Therefore; once these Google Cars are put out on the market, laws would need to change.
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There are three factors that could determine liability in case of an automobile accident:

1) Google - the author of the software used by the Google Car;
2) Toyota - the current and only car Manufacturer of the Google Car; and
3) The Owner of the vehicle.

Liability would be determined on the type of accident and could have one or more of these parties at fault. The legal process would examine who is at fault. For example, was it a software issue or a mechanical failure? A software issue would be if the program made the wrong decision and caused a crash, and a mechanical failure would be if a part used to build the Google car was defective or malfunctioned.

All in all, the Goggle Car was created to make driving and roadways safer. In 2008, the NHTSA reported that there were 37,261 automobile fatalities. Lets hope that if and when the Google Car is put on the market it will lower the yearly number of deaths in the United States.

December 20, 2010

Speeding Tickets: Do They Follow You From State to State?

Q: Speeding Tickets: Do Speeding Tickets Affect Your Driver's License Status in another state?
A: Yes, and here is how:

There are three major databases that keep track of your driver's license information: the National Driver Register (NDR), the Driver License Compact (DLC) and the Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC).
The NDR was created by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2000. The organizations primary purpose is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. This includes both commercial drivers and regular drivers. The list keeps track of drivers who have had their licenses revoked, suspended or who have been convicted of serious traffic violations. The data is collected and submitted nationwide to the NDR and every states as well as the District of Columbia is obligated to check the NDR before issuing out a drivers license.

The DLC and NRVC are responsible for how your tickets actually follow you.

The NDR, DLC and NRVC are products of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). This organization is a non-profit organization and it is tax-exempted. The AAMVA develops programs in motor vehicle administration, law enforcement and highway safety. Though the organization forms policies for such things are laws against radar and laser detector use, it is up to each individual state to ratify and join any provision.

The DLC is responsible for making a violation in another state effective/equivalent to a violation in your home state. For example, if your license was suspended in Virginia and you currently live in Maryland, your license will also be suspended in Maryland and points will be issued to your driving record.

The NRVC works similarly than the DLC, except that it will not add points to your driving record. If we follow the example above and you get a ticket in Virginia and you live in Maryland and do not pay the ticket, Maryland will suspend your license until you handle the issue in Virginia, without adding any points to your driving record.

A new organization will be forming called the Driver License Agreement (DLA). Any state that becomes a member of the DLA will submit to its regulations. The DLA will require all member states to take action even if the home state doesn't have the same statute under which you were ticketed out of your home state. For example, if you are issued a careless driving citation in Virginia but your home state does not have such a violation, then your home state will look for the closest equivalent citation it could issue and assess points and penalties based on that. The AAMVA is working to make the DLA international. In the near future the DLA will include South America, Europe, Australia and Africa.

The DLA also requires that all member states make all information available to non-member states as well. Though the DLA is in its early stages, it is inevitable that all states within the US, Canada and Mexico will become members.

December 13, 2010

New Rear Video Camera Systems Rule in Washington, D.C.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, D.C. announced a new proposal in early December that would put a rule into effect that would require all new cars and light trucks to have back up camera systems by the year 2014. The camera systems would require a rear video camera and interior display to be installed in all new cars and light trucks. The camera systems would add about $200 to the total cost of a new vehicle. The new rule would require the camera systems to have a driver visual area of 20 feet to the rear and 20 feet wide.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 300 people are killed and another 18,000 injured a year due to back up accidents. If this new rule is implemented it would save anywhere between 95 to 112 deaths and nearly 7,000 injuries a year.

According to Ray LaHood, Secretary of the DOT, the changes would "help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up."

Currently, about 20 percent of new vehicles come with an optional back up camera system. If the new rule is put into effect, the rule would have to be met by 10 percent of 2012 new vehicles and 40 percent of 2013s and all 2014s vehicles. The camera systems would be required in all new vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds.

The proposed camera system rule would become final after a 60 day public comment period.

December 6, 2010

Drugged Drivers Increase Fatal Car Accidents Nationwide

Out of the 21,798 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2009, 63 percent of them were tested positive for drugs, and according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, 18 percent of them tested positive for drugs.

Drug data was collected Nationwide and analyzed by the NHTSA as part of a Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The types of drugs reported were over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs and illicit drugs as well.

Previous reports by the NHTSA have shown that alcohol and drowsiness are some of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents, but this new report will begin to explore the role that legal and illegal drug use play in accidents. This report has shown that drug involvement in fatal motor vehicle accidents is indeed increasing nationwide. This report will pave the way for more research and could ultimately lead to the establishment of standardized testing methods that would look into drug involvement and fatal accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also published various reports that offer a look at roadway risks and show ways that lives can be saved. One IIHS report estimates that 7,440 driver deaths could have been prevented had blood-alcohol content levels been below .08%. The report also states that ignition interlock systems are one way to fight the problem of blood alcohol.

The ultimate solution would be that if you are impaired, whether it be from drowsiness, lack of sleep, alcohol use or legal or illegal drugs, it is best to not get behind the wheel and let someone else drive. Do not put yourself or others at risk of an accident and/or an untimely death. Common sense and caution need to be put at the forefront of your decision making and you need to give your keys to someone else. If you are impaired, Do not drive!