Hasten preparations for game-changing innovations in self-driving vehicles

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe technological innovation of autonomous driving is remarkable. Creation of societal rules should be quickly advanced, and a new era of road traffic smoothly ushered in.

The government has drafted an outline presenting a course of action for the legal system for the autonomous driving of vehicles.

It envisions the realization by 2020 of autonomous driving that will limit the human driver’s operation of an automobile on expressways to only in the event of emergencies. Even on ordinary roads, the government has a policy of introducing unmanned driving for such services as buses in depopulated areas.

Should autonomous driving spread, accidents caused by drivers’ carelessness are expected to decline drastically. There are also high hopes for self-driving cars to become a means of transportation for elderly people to shop or commute to the hospital. Furthermore, the cars’ spread would help address the shortage of bus and truck drivers.

While giving the highest priority to safety, it is also necessary to promote the establishment of rules that will contribute to the development of related Japanese technologies.

The draft outline presents an opinion as to where the responsibility lies in the event of a traffic accident caused by a self-driving vehicle.

As far as civil liability is concerned, the vehicle’s owner will bear the responsibility for compensating the victim, the same as presently. Likewise, compulsory automobile liability insurance will be applied to such accidents. With regards to accidents caused by hacking damage on the autonomous driving system, the government will provide compensation.

Manufacturers will be held responsible in car accidents only when there is a definite defect in the vehicle’s system. Should a manufacturer be held accountable for each and every accident, its zeal for developing such vehicles would diminish. This course of action regarding the rules is understandable.

Take active part in discussions

Criminal liability is considered to be a topic in need of continued discussion. This is a serious theme.

The race to develop self-driving cars, which involves information technology companies, has been intensifying among Japan, the United States and European countries.

The crafting of universal standards concerning automated vehicle technologies and traffic regulations is under way in a commission under the umbrella of the United Nations.

If Japan’s autonomous driving technologies are adopted as a global standard, it will become a tailwind for related industries at home. The government should actively take part in international discussions.

In March, a self-driving car being road-tested caused a fatal accident, with a pedestrian hit on a public road in the United States. There was also a fatal accident in the United States in 2016 by an autonomous vehicle that was being tested on public roads.

Operational tests in compliance with certain restrictions have also started in Japan on public roads and elsewhere. The results of the experiments will provide valuable information not only for vehicular technology but also for regulations at the stage of practical application.

Japanese automakers have ample stocks of information on vehicles’ safety. It is also important to make use of this asset when crafting new rules.

The spread of autonomous driving could trigger a broad range of reforms in such areas as daily lifestyles and the physical distributions of goods.

It will be important for the government, as a start, to widely and in detail inform the public about the advantages of autonomous driving and the challenges it poses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2018)Speech


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