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Creation of driverless car safety standards meets hurdles

New Jersey motorists may have to wait a while before they see self-driving vehicles on the roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a report, which it will make public by the end of November, stating that it needs input on what research to conduct before it can develop safety standards for such vehicles. Advocates are pushing for Congress to act.

In a landmark move, a Senate committee approved a bill in early October that would give exemptions to automakers to make up to 80,000 self-driving cars annually in the next three years. The U.S. House had approved a similar measure in September, also meant to speed up the manufacturing and testing of self-driving cars.

Under the bill, the NHTSA will be responsible for granting waivers to automakers; it has also been given 10 years to write new safety standards for driverless vehicles. There are nearly 75 auto safety regulations, many of which could carry over to driverless vehicles with a few revisions, while others may need to be eliminated altogether. Deciding between revision and elimination is just one issue that the NHTSA has requested further input on. Moreover, it may take years for the agency to conduct the necessary research.

Many auto safety groups are pushing for more safeguards in the production of self-driving vehicles. This makes sense, as many car accidents are caused by defective auto parts. Such cases fall under product liability law. However, if an accident was clearly caused by driver negligence or recklessness, an injured victim might want to file a personal injury lawsuit with the help of an attorney.

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