The Impact of Driverless Cars on Recall Rates

How will defects in driverless cars affect vehicle recall rates?

As lemon law attorneys and those they represent know all too well, nothing is more frustrating than repeatedly bringing your new leased or purchased vehicle into the dealership or the mechanic’s shop for constant repairs of the same persistent problem.

In general, the lemon law protects those who buy or lease new vehicles from persistent repair problems that impact the vehicle’s use, value, or safety in the first year or two of possession, depending on the state you live in. Sometimes, your “lemon” is the rare bad one in the bunch with that particular problem and you may need an attorney to get you out of the deal with a full refund, cash settlement, or replacement vehicle.

Other times, your “lemon” is part of a proverbial orchard’s worth of similar vehicles with the same problem system. In the latter case, the manufacturer may issue a voluntary or mandated auto recall of all affected vehicles to repair the problem or to buy back the car if it can’t be replaced.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for ensuring that the vehicles on the roadways are safe and free from known defects. Part of its broad authority includes the power to recall vehicles for safety reasons—and that authority covers the new driverless vehicles as well as traditional ones. At least that is how NHTSA interprets the definition of the power Congress gave it over the safety of “motor vehicle equipment”—which it says includes autonomous software.

Historically, recalls have been related to systems that need a mechanic’s literal touch to repair, like brakes and transmissions and steering systems. Because scheduling shop time and being without the car is an inconvenience, NHTSA estimates as many as 20% of recall repairs either get delayed excessively or never occur.

Now, with driverless, autonomous cars on the roads, many of the technologies are software-based. The advantage is that over-the-air (OTA) repairs can be made across the board with a simple computer update, making the possibility of 100% recall repair not only possible, but fast and efficient, as it cuts out the mechanic.

There is a downside however. Because cybersecurity experts fear that hackers could interfere with these software systems, the push is on for manufacturers to prove their systems are secure and drivers are safe from such external cyber threats.

In fact, the federal government just released guidelines that include “a 15-point ‘safety assessment’ that outlines the federal expectations for the design, testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles” to ensure that the public remains safe while the technology of tomorrow is being developed and deployed.

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Timothy J. Abeel & Associates, P.C. is a lemon law, breach of warranty, and fraud law firm. Call 1-888-611-5481 to get started or contact us here.

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