Whose Fault Is A Driverless Car Crash?

27/10/2015

Whose Fault Is A Driverless Car Crash?

Whose Fault Is A Driverless Car Crash?

With the news breaking that industry experts are projecting fully automated cars on our roads by as soon as 2020, the prospect of the autonomous future of our roads is coming into stronger and stronger focus.

Driverless cars are no longer just some abstract gadget you’d find in a James Bond film. They’re coming and they’ll soon be here, amongst us. As such, the time has come for us to get down to brass tacks with the practicalities of driving amongst our driverless brethren.

As the 2020s progress, you’ll be seeing a gradual increase in the number of driverless cars on your roads and motorways. The process of becoming adjusted to this is sure to have some kinks that need ironing out and one in particular is the concern of liability in the event of an accident involving a driverless car.

 

Who’s At Fault? Who Must Pay?

The first critical step in establishing a central ground on this front may have come on October 8th, when the BBC reported that Volvo had announced they would accept liability for accidents caused by any of their driverless cars, assuming the car’s technology was found to be at fault.

Their Chief Technical Officer, Erik Coelingh elaborated on this, saying: “Everybody is aware of the fact that driverless technology will never be perfect - one day there will be an accident. So the question becomes who is responsible and we think it's unrealistic to put that responsibility on our customers.”

It’s interesting and at the same time realistic that companies and governments alike are open and honest about the struggles which will come as the driverless cars take their place amongst the road.

With regards to potential accidents, insurance is also a question at hand. Whilst Volvo are accepting liability for their accidents caused by their own tech, those caused by a driven car crashing into a driverless car will still fall at the feet of the driver of that car and collisions between two driverless cars are as of yet unknown.

 

Does This Ultimately Matter?

Ultimately, a global, world-wide standard of liability will need to be established. Particularly in the UK, all previous liability before now was laid on the shoulders of the offending driver but with new technology on the way, it’s important that lines in the sand are drawn.

With regards to driverless cars, the potential for accidents remains the one glaring mark against the induction of them onto our roads. Whilst new liability legislation will iron out the creases in the seeming inevitability of a crash it does little to assuage skeptics who remain assured that driverless tech may be sound in theory but struggle in practice.

Installing legislation to protect drivers, passengers and indeed the companies in the event of driverless car accidents will quickly be seen as obsolete if the amount of road accidents per year drastically increases with the introduction of driverless cars.

The fact remains that driverless cars, in road testing in the past, have been in multiple accidents. The everyday nuances of the road, including the unpredictability of manual drivers will need to be catered for in the driverless cars’ programming. If not, the slightest thing out of the norm could cause cars to stop, massive congestion and confusion and even accidents.

The whole scenario ultimately taps into a much larger question: can you programme a machine to cater towards every last possibility that crosses the human mind? We’re about to find out.