Starting in September of this year, a permit is required to test driverless cars on the road in California
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has issued a handful of permits for self-driving cars, most of which have been awarded to Google. These vehicles have to follow a stringent set of rules and regulations during testing and they navigate with the assistance of various sensors, cameras and radar.
The impetus behind the development of autonomous cars is to improve safety and reduce traffic on the road - meanwhile, this raises some interesting questions about liability if the vehicle is involved in an accident, and related issues about insurance coverage and other parts of the vehicle code.
During testing, a driver must be at the wheel at all times so that a human can take over if the vehicle encounters a situation it’s not yet able to handle. At this time, the manufacturer and the operator are responsible for any possible bodily damage or destruction of property that may result from a collision.
When autonomous cars become available to consumers, which may be around 2017, what will the insurance requirements be? The consensus seems to be that the manufacturer will be held responsible for a collision. In fact, automated vehicles may make it easier and quicker to resolve insurance claims because factors that currently cause a gray area may be eliminated.
An autonomous vehicle application for acquiring a testing permit sets forth some rigorous requirements. Trained drivers with clean records must be at the wheel in case they need to intervene. In addition to sensors, the vehicle is equipped with safety equipment that warns of any possible malfunction, and strict record-keeping is required by the manufacturer. And there's also this form from the DMV for reporting accidents involving driverless vehicles.