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NHTSA still in support of automated cars despite fatal wreck

Mississippi residents may have heard about the person who was killed in a motor vehicle crash involving a Tesla Model S car that was driving in autopilot mode. The fatal accident happened May 7 in Florida, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is formally investigating what went wrong.

Despite the accident, the head of the NHTSA said the agency is still in support of the development of autonomous vehicles. According to him, 94 percent of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by human mistakes, and the agency believes that autonomous vehicles could substantially reduce that percentage. The agency chief made his comments July 20 at a conference.

The NHTSA is currently in the process of drafting safety guidelines for the deployment of automated vehicles as well as the manner in which the vehicles should react in a variety of different circumstances. The guidelines originally were scheduled for release by July 14, but the agency now says that they will not be ready until later in the summer.

An accident involving an automated vehicle raises issues regarding liability. The question of whether the driver or the software is technically at fault must be acknowledged by the creators of the software and any accident survivors. If a person is killed in an accident caused by a negligent motorist, then the person's lawyer may help him or her file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver in order to hold him or her liable for the losses they have suffered. The lawyer may also investigate whether the driver's insurance policy may provide an additional avenue of coverage for the accident.

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