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Autonomous Vehicles a Hot Button Issue in Indiana Legislature

Steve Wagner


  • It’s been said that driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles could reduce the incidence of fatal traffic accidents up to 90 percent just by taking human errors like overcorrecting or driving distracted out of the equation.
  • Lawmakers, state and federal, can’t seem to figure out how to create policies that keep autonomous vehicle makers accountable though.
  • Not unlike other states, Indiana’s House and Senate have been bantering for years on how to regulate autonomous vehicles operating on Indiana’s roadways, but some say Hoosiers aren’t ready and things like operator driving laws and road infrastructures need to be set in place first.
  • What do you think? Does Indiana need to design its own autonomous vehicle regulations or should the state wait until the federal government drives up and we adopt national standards?

Indiana Lawmakers Continue Debate Over Self-Driving Vehicle Regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation says 94 percent of fatal crashes are due to human error, and that is a number autonomous car manufacturers say could be reduced by opening the market for driverless cars. With that reduction, almost 300,000 lives could be saved each decade across the country, and an estimated saving of $190 billion each year in healthcare costs associated with motor vehicle accidents.

Sure, these numbers sound amazing and we look forward to the possibility of those outcomes, but they won’t happen without much debate. Indiana lawmakers have stayed busy in 2018 arguing about how autonomous and self-driving vehicles should or should not be regulated before they can hit Indiana’s roadways.

Under House Bill 1341’s plan, vehicle manufacturers and computer companies would be allowed to operate autonomous vehicles in the state if they ‘self-certify’ their products are capable of complying with federal and state motor vehicle laws. The hiccup comes in because these companies could do this even if they don’t actually comply in use. In addition, some say the state is too eager to get more autonomous companies to use Hoosier roads for testing purposes and will propose anything to make it happen. Measures could also scrap a House-backed requirement that says every autonomous vehicle have a responsible occupant with a driver’s license prepared to manually operate the vehicle if the autonomous system fails.

Lawmakers have since created the Indiana Automated Vehicle Oversight Task Group, composed of state and local officials, to review and approve autonomous driving systems before they can be used in Indiana and help create safety standards for the growing technology. We will plan to share updates from the lawmakers’ timeline in a future blog post and on our social media channels.

Pathway to a Safer Future or Liability Nightmare

Since the team at Wagner Reese prides itself on providing sound advice, intelligent legal strategies, and the vigorous representation needed to maximize injury settlements, we would be wrong to not think about how autonomous vehicles would fit into the car accident claim scenario. We have already witnessed the occurrence of automated cars causing crashes in other states where limits have been set on liability for these driverless vehicles. What does that mean if Indiana follows suit? Maybe the new technology will be a breach, or what if a hardware virus or software failure occurs while driving 65 mph on I-65, or a design and manufacturing flaw causes the vehicle to hit a pedestrian in Market East? What we do know, and have seen in other states, is that automated cars won’t be perfect and because of that we will have to determine how to place fault based on many new factors and laws.

We are excited for this new technology in the hopes that it does prevent injuries and save lives, but we want to stay on top of the latest developments and will be following local lawmakers cues on what is coming next.

Injured in a Car Accident? Call Wagner Reese

If you’ve already suffered an injury in a car accident, whether it was automated or not, the attorneys at Wagner Reese have decades of experience in personal injury and product liability law. We can assist you in recovering the damages you are owed for the injuries you have incurred.

Give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.


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