Much like winter in “Game of Thrones,” self-driving cars are coming. Actually, they’re already here, albeit in a probationary phase that is meant for testing and alterations. Still, the fact that there are self-driving cars out there signals we aren’t that far off, relatively speaking, from a world where ever car is driven by robots and GPS devices. Whether this will decrease car accidents (the most likely outcome) or turn the roads into utter robotic chaos has yet to be seen.
What is undeniable, though, is that when self-driving cars become the norm, there will still be accidents. They may be more minor than accidents in a prior, human-driven age, but they will still occur. And when they do occur, how will liability be handled? How will insurance function? What happens on the legal side of things when self-driving cars take over our streets?
The mess that will likely unfold after a self-driving motor vehicle accident is already revealing itself. Recently, the Google executive in charge of the company’s self-driving program revealed that a self-driving car got into an accident with a car driven by someone else.
It seems clear that the person was at fault (that person’s vehicle collided into the back of the self-driving car without braking and with plenty of space to stop). But there will be cases where the self-driving car is at fault, and when that happens, the gray area of the law will be grayer and more unknown than ever before. People need to be prepared for the issues that self-driving cars will bring to the table.
Source: Gawker, “Perfect Google Robot Car Not at Fault for Accident With Faulty Humans,” Ashley Feinberg, July 17, 2015