The Future is Now: Self-Driving Cars and Liability

Self-Driving CarAs self-driving vehicles start to become available on the marketplace, it begs the question: who will be liable for accidents involving self-driving cars? This article from the Verge is from a writer who took a trip in one of Google’s self-driving cars.

Who is Liable?

Google initially declared that it wanted these vehicles to reach the marketplace by 2017, but as they still have not made any agreements with car manufacturers, it is not known when these cars may actually arrive. The company claims that this new technology will greatly reduce accidents, but it may change who could be liable when accidents do occur. The new technology regarding these vehicles means that lawmakers and judges will have to address how accidents involving automated automobiles will be treated.

Self-Driving Cars as “Witnesses”?

A recent article from the New York Times comes from University of Chicago Professor, Casey B. Mulligan. He also mentions the hope and belief that self-driving cars will reduce accidents because machines cannot get drunk or become tired. However, he correctly notes that no machine has ever worked flawlessly and we can still expect accidents, and by extension, lawsuits to occur. He makes a very astute point in regard to auto accidents. Many times, it is difficult to establish culpability because judges and juries must rely on human testimony. As a result, it means that witnesses may recall different aspects of a particular accident and people know that eyewitness testimony is certainly not infallible. Some accidents require a determination concerning the degree of culpability for each party, and self-driving cars will make this determination much easier to calculate. It is believed that because the self-driving cars will possess “photographic memories,” it will be much easier to determine what caused the car accident and to what degree each party is responsible. Professor Mulligan also notes that because other self-driving cars may be nearby, they may be able to help determine what caused the accident. While this scenario sounds like a futuristic movie, it will be interesting to note how courts decide to permit testimony from these machines and to what degree people will rely on them. Regardless of what happens when these self-driving cars arrive on the marketplace, it will certainly lead to interesting legal debates before a norm becomes established.

How Long to Accept Cars as “Witnesses”?

Professor Mulligan correctly notes that once the evidence from these cars is reliable, there will be less need for protected legal battles, and it should take less time to result in a decision. And at the very least, it also means that there will be less need for eyewitness testimony. However, it will still be interesting to discern how long it takes before the courts believe that they can trust and rely upon this evidence.

Contact an Attorney for More Information

If you are in a car accident involving human-driven or self-driving cars in the state of Massachusetts, you should contact John. J Sheehan today. He has a strong reputation in handling auto accident cases and will do everything to assist you.

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