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Autonomous cars on California roadways and liability issues

As of 2015, California is one of only four states permitting testing of autonomous car technology on its public roads. While the Mercedes-BenzS550 has semiautonomous features, Apple and Google have dominated discussion of fully autonomous cars so far. Google estimates that 94 percent of all auto accidents result from human error, but the remaining 6 percent have made many observers have questions as to the risks autonomous cars could pose. Without the driver's ability to control the vehicle, questions of liability in the event of an accident become difficult to answer.

Representatives from Mercedes-Benz and Google have stated that their companies would accept liability in the case of any accidents where their autonomous cars were at fault. Volvo's president and CEO declared that Volvo would accept the same responsibility as well. Automakers expressing a willingness to accept liability for accidents is significant since there is still a large margin for error as early testing of these cars begins.

In addition to taking responsibility for any accidents involving autonomous Volvo cars, the CEO of the company urged the government to allow automakers to expand testing programs and implement regulations. He expressed concern that the United States would lose ground without cohesive regulations. Only California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan allow autonomous car testing on public roads. The Volvo CEO believes that a lack of regulations and proper testing permissions prevent credible tests from being performed to create safe autonomous vehicles.

While autonomous cars may reduce injuries from such causes as drunk driving accidents, they still pose new liability questions that may be difficult to answer. As more autonomous car models are unveiled, manufacturers may hold more liability than individual drivers. Those who are injured in an accident involving such a vehicle will likely want to meet with an attorney in order to pinpoint the party or parties who may be responsible.

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