With electric cars now becoming more and more common, there another futuristic concept is starting to get well on its way: self-driving cars. There is little to no doubt that self-driving cars can replace cars that require manual driving operations in the next one hundred years, and the technological benefits that these vehicles have gained have placed them as a must have for consumers who want a next-level driving experience. However, as recent news have shown, self-driving vehicles can and have posed a danger for the driver and passengers in them.
This raises the question to be asked: if someone were to be in a car accident, who would be responsible or liable for the damages of the vehicle, or worse, any injuries involved? As is quite understandable, several concerns have been raised over the safety and dependability of self-driving cars, and the question of reliability has occasionally been repeatedly questioned, and much emphasis has been placed on to whom the fault should fall on: the driver or the car itself?
There have been recent changes in shift in policies in regards to self-driving cars. What used to be a complete permission for a vehicle to have complete control without requiring for a driver to be sitting in the driver’s seat has changed after a series of car accidents involving self-driving cars within the United States took hold of policy makers and car manufacturers. Now, drivers are required to be sitting in the driver’s seat at all times and be ready to take over their self-driving car’s steering wheel at any time. This is created so that while the car is available to be driven by itself, there is someone available to take emergency and preventive measures should there be a situation that requires a driver.
Furthermore, when drivers turn on their self-driving cars, there may be a warning or caution on the car’s dash stating that a driver is required to be seated in the driver’s seat at all times. It is possible for a vehicle to not even start without the vehicle’s computer system sensing and recognizing a person sitting in a driver’s seat. This is designed to accomplish two things. First, with the driver of the vehicle present, any maneuver or last-second move can be taken by a driver if they sense that their electric car is not responding or a different movement is necessary to avoid an accident. Secondly, this is done to guard the car manufacturer from any possible lawsuit that the driver might file against them should an accident occur. Essentially, the liability and neglect of an accident would ultimately fall on the driver of the self-driving car. However, there are certain exceptions that may place the car manufacturer at-fault, as the next section will hold.
Malfunctions and other vehicle defects that occur on gasoline-powered, driven cars. These defects, when detected, can be corrected immediately and the driver of the vehicle can typically notice the defect rather quickly. This, however, is a bit more complicated when it comes to terms of self-driving vehicles. In a self-driving vehicle, the vehicle is typically electric, controlled by a computer located within the car, and can be autonomous. This can create a problem for two big reasons. First, if there is a defect found within the computer itself, it may be difficult, if not impossible for the computer to self-recognize that a problem exists within its own component, which could then in turn cause the car’s other electric features - such as auto-navigation - to be completely unaware of the problem and continue its path. Second, and closely related to the first problem, is the fact that because the driver of the vehicle has completely laid its trust on the vehicle in driving by itself, the driver might not readily identify the problem. This could in turn cause the car to crash against another vehicle, which would turn the liability to the driver, who could in turn give the liability to the car manufacturer after taking the self-driving car to an inspection at their car dealership.
In this case, because there was a defect within the vehicle that caused an accident to occur, the liability would be given to the car manufacturer. While the driver was responsible for making sure that the vehicle was being driven safely and at adequate speeds, the vehicle’s defect is something that could not have been found by the driver without an inspection or vehicle check-up. This is why determining liability in these types of accidents can often be a conflicting subject; there may be one or two parties potentially liable.