The impending takeover of the car industry by self-driving vehicles has been predicted and discussed for many years now. While it seems that the end of this year, or perhaps early next year, will be the true dawning of these vehicles on our roads and in the marketplace, the existence of self-driving cars brings about one simple question: when one is involved in an accident, what are the legal consequences of such an incident?
Self-driving cars have been out on California roads for years, logging many miles and hours so that developers, programmers, and manufacturers can learn as much as they can about unleashing self-driving cars on the public. What has been discovered is that though these are incredible vehicles with many intricate systems that are supposed to prevent car accidents, they still, indeed, get into car accidents.
Reports have found some 30 accidents that self-driving cars have been involved in since 2014. Many of them were not the fault of the self-driving car, while some were. However, regardless of the fault involved (even though that is an important point as well), the point here is that self-driving cars are involved in accidents at all. How do you determine liability when a self-driving car is involved in a crash? Is the manufacturer of the car liable? The maker of a lane-departure system? The programmer of the sensors on the self-driving car?
These vehicles have opened up a gray area in the law. This doesn’t mean self-driving cars should be scrapped all together — but the law needs to catch up with the times.
Source: Sacramento Bee, “California’s self-driving cars are rolling – and sometimes crashing,” Jim Miller, May 12, 2017