The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Pennsylvania bullish on self-driving cars despite crashes

A series of crashes involving self-driving cars -- such as the March accident involving a driverless Uber vehicle in Pittsburgh -- has garnered scrutiny from both lawmakers and the media. Arizona banned Uber from testing after one of the company's autonomous vehicles killed a woman in Tempe. However, Pittsburgh did not follow suit. It was not until Uber voluntary stopped the program in the city that testing of its self-driving vehicles was halted.

While this string of car accidents may have shaken consumer and regulator confidence across the nation, the Keystone State appears to be embracing the technology. Pennsylvania continues to vie for a piece of the self-driving pie by opening its roads to testing of self-driving vehicles. There is little disagreement that the technology does offer tremendous potential for consumers as well as the transportation industry, with uses ranging from door-to-door taxiing to large-scale movement of goods and passengers.

However, the developers and manufacturers of the technology have demonstrated a reluctance to be forthcoming in their communication with the public. The result is that much of the public perception about self-driving technology is driven by the media and news about its failures. And when compared to the benefits the technology may eventually offer, the crashes and deaths make a bigger media splash.

As long as the Keystone State embraces this nascent technology and allows testing on its roads, citizens of Pennsylvania face the potential risks caused by self-driving vehicles. The liability for failures of these technologies could stretch from the owner of the vehicle and anyone sitting in the driver's seat to the manufacturers of the vehicle and developers of the technology. Self-driving cars may be the wave of the future, but those involved in putting them on the road should be held accountable when something goes wrong.

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