blog home Auto Product Liability Determining liability in the age of driverless cars

Determining liability in the age of driverless cars

By Butler Prather LLP on February 24, 2016

While the technology needed to make driverless cars a common occurrence on the nation’s roads is still a few years off, many Georgia drivers have questions pertaining to liability in the event of a collision with a driverless vehicle. In fact, determining liability may pose even more of a conundrum than solving any remaining technological issues, according to The Atlantic.

There are many factors involved in the operation of driverless cars that render placing blame for a crash exceedingly difficult. For instance, a collision involving an autonomous vehicle will need extensive investigation to expose the underlying cause in absence of human error. This will require a review of software, hardware, testing procedures, among many other possible factors.  

To this end, traditional liability terms will need to be applied to this burgeoning technology. Although driverless cars are touted as a safer alternative due to the removal of the human operator element, there are a number of issues that can arise that may impact road safety. These can include occurrences of design defects (problems with software operation), negligence (failure to provide a safe driving experience when a vehicle is used in a reasonable way) or manufacturing flaws (inadvertently outfitting vehicles with outdated components).

The Insurance Information Institute offers further clarification on the impact of driverless cars. Despite claims that driverless cars will completely remove the possibility of vehicular fatalities, the risk of serious accidents still remain, whether due to failure of technical components or a yet-to-be determined issue. Proper training is also an concern when it comes to autonomous vehicles, especially in the event of an emergency. It may be necessary for these vehicles to return control to the driver in certain circumstances, which introduces that unpredictable human element back into the fold. 

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