Who Is Responsible For The Crash Of A Driverless Car?

The current trend in technology has made driverless cars a reality. These driverless cars are made with the aim of avoiding car accidents,  but as it stands now, there is still a long way to go. Currently, there  is a limited testing and deployment of these autonomous cars especially  due to numerous accidents they have caused recently, including a fatal  crash. Due to these accidents, new liability laws needs to be enacted,  but the major challenge is that there is no clear person to carry the  blame. In a scenario where a crash is caused by a driverless car, how  will a lawsuit be filed and who will attend the hearing? The car or its  manufacturer?


The  transportation department has recently passed a regulation, whereby the  computer of a driverless car should be considered as the car’s driver,  which makes the situation even more confusing. According to the existing  law, there is no basis under which a computer can be held liable for an  accident since it is just a machine. You might argue that a personal  injury lawyer should be hired to defend the computer and injured car  occupants, but how will the claims be justified if you can’t interact  with the computer? If in any case the driverless car is sued for causing  an accident, there will be multiple defendants including the software  designer, vehicle’s owner and also the manufacturer. This means that the  case can drastically change from being a typical auto accident case  into a liability caused by design defect, which makes it very  challenging for an accident attorney. The injured parties are at a  significant disadvantage since it is very difficult for a personal  injury lawyer to prove a product liability case as compared to a  negligence case. The verdicts, judgment, and settlement of a product  liability case are, however, higher than those of vehicle accident  negligence cases.


There  are some accident cases which involve self-driving cars which are  semi-autonomous. Such vehicles can be operated either by a physical  driver or using a computer. The physical presence of a driver is vital  since they are supposed to take control in case the computer faults. If  an accident occurs, there is a shared liability between the driver and  the auto-pilot system which was active during the crash. The driver can  be sued for auto accident negligence while on the other hand, the  manufacturer can be sued for the liability caused by design defect.


As  of 2017, the Google driverless car has been involved in 14 accidents,  13 of which were faults of the other drivers. The first accident caused  by this car happened in February 2017 in California. The Google SUV had  initially stopped after detecting sandbags in its path, and while trying  to merge back into the traffic, it crashed into a bus. According to  Google engineers, the car seemingly thought that the bus would slow  down.

Evidently, the driverless  technology is still very new, and some states have not yet legalized it.  In various states, the effectiveness of this technology is still being  tested especially when it comes to road safety. The most controversial  arguments as far as driverless technology is concerned, revolves around  liability claims in case of an accident. Accident attorneys are still debating on who should be held liable when a driverless car  causes an accident. Is it the computer, the manufacturer, the car owner  or the software designer?

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