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Insurance Group Says Systems Such as Tesla Autopilot Need Safety Regulations

Fire Dangers in Older Tesla Models Renew Safety Concerns About Aging Electric Vehicles

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls for creating safety regulations for partially automated driver-assist systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors’ Super Cruise. According to a CNN news report, the IIHS, funded by the auto insurance industry, has recommended increased monitoring of drivers to ensure they are engaged, prohibiting automated lane changing, and restricting the use of these systems to the roads for which they are designed.

Semi-Automated Systems Aren’t Regulated

The IIHS has warned that when much of the driving shift away from human beings, they might stop paying attention and may not control their vehicle properly. This announcement comes two weeks after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reaffirmed its recommendations that Tesla make safety changes to the Autopilot system after a fatal crash involving a driver in Northern California who was using Autopilot when the crash occurred.

According to IIHS, the rise in unregulated semi-automated driver-assist systems is what inspired its recommendations. The federal government has been focused on figuring out how to regulate fully automated vehicles, which don’t require a human driver before they are put on the market. Tesla and GM are already selling partially- computerized vehicles. Since then, automakers such as Acura, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan have released similar systems.

The IIHS is sharing its recommendations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the hope that it will form the basis of future regulations. The NHTSA said in a statement that it will review the IIHS report and recommend that developers of these semi-automated systems incorporate proper “driver-vehicle interaction strategies.” But the agency has yet to say what these “strategies” might be. The IIHS has recommended tracking drivers’ engagement levels using indicators such as eye movements, blinking, head tilt, steering wheel input and the speed of responses to alerts.

Need to Proceed Cautiously

As motor vehicle defect attorneys who represent victims of Tesla Autopilot crashes, we believe there is a dire need to regulate driver-assist systems and semi-automated systems, which are becoming more and more common in vehicles as automakers try to stay ahead of the curve with driverless or semi-automated technology. We’ve already seen a number of instances where drivers who use Tesla’s Autopilot systems fall asleep at the wheel as the car is traveling at over 65 mph on freeways. These situations have the potential to cause devastating car accidents. We hope lawmakers will act swiftly to regulate these new technologies.


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California Personal Injury Blog