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Robot cars unprecedented risks to consumers, says consumer watchdog

Staff Writer |
Self-driving” vehicles will pose unprecedented safety, security, and privacy risks, and insurance companies and auto makers will try to shift the blame and the costs to consumers through higher insurance rates.

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Consumer Watchdog warned in an informational hearing in Sacramento conducted by the Senate Insurance Committee.

California’s Proposition 103, which blocks excessive rates and bars discriminatory practices, will be critically important to protecting Californians, the group said.

“Proposition 103 will stop insurance companies and robot car and truck manufacturers from shifting the blame, and the cost, onto consumers when the robot car’s hardware and software fail,” said Harvey Rosenfield, author of the 1988 measure, in prepared testimony.

The risks posed by self-driving cars “include failures in extremely complex hardware... privacy breaches... hacking for criminal enterprises like smuggling, or even terrorist cyber-attacks….”

“Perhaps the most dangerous risk... is their unregulated substitution of computers and software for the moral and practical judgment of human beings...

The robot vehicle will confront situations in which the choice is not whether to smash into someone, but rather who to hit when a collision is unavoidable: an oncoming vehicle, a pedestrian in a crosswalk, a mom pushing her infant in a stroller on the sidewalk?”

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