Skip to comments.Who Gets Sued When Your Robot Car Crashes?
Posted on 03/25/2014 5:48:48 PM PDT by DannyTN
Autonomous vehicles will save thousands of lives. But what about the ones they take?
Robot cars will save lots of lives, but they'll also open up some tricky liability issues.
You are a terrible driver.
By human standards, you might be pretty good, but you'll never be able to match the reaction time, 360-degree monitoring, and prescient awareness autonomous vehicles will soon provide.
By almost any estimate, taking the wheel out of the hands of human driverswhen the technology is readywill save thousands of lives. "Human beings just aren't that great as drivers," said Rand's James Anderson. Driverless cars "could save billions of dollars and thousands of lives."
But what happens when something goes wrong? Robot cars may prevent thousands of accidents, but eventually, inevitably, there will be a crash.
"Who's responsible if the car crashes?" Audi's Brad Stertz said earlier this year. "That's going to be an issue."
It's tough to argue the passenger (who may well be the victim) should be held responsible if a car controlled by a computer runs itself off the road. But should automakers face long, expensive lawsuits when life-saving technology suffers a rare glitch?
"Automaker liability is likely to increase. Crashes are much more likely to be viewed as the fault of the car and the manufacturer," Anderson said. "If you're an automaker and you know you're going to be sued [more frequently], you're going to have reservations. The legal liability test doesn't take into account the long-run benefits."
In other words, even though a technology is an overall boon to the greater good, its rare instances of failureand subsequent lawsuitswon't take that into account. That could slow the movement of driverless cars to the mass market if automakers are wary of legal battles.
"The auto insurers are thinking a lot about this," Anderson said. Insurers, as well as body shops and trauma centers, are among the members of the "crash economy" that will be disrupted when robot cars rule the road.
As they grapple with what autonomous vehicles might mean for their industry, the legal frontier remains uncertain as well. One possible solution? A payout fund set up to compensate victims of driverless car accidents. That could be modeled similar to the Health and Human Services Department's vaccine injury compensation fund, which takes a 75-cent tax from every purchased vaccine. The no-fault program helps those who have been hurt by vaccine-related incidents without exposing the medical community to legal battles and expensive damages payouts.
In the early stages, subsidies may be required to help driverless cars take hold in the market, according to Rand's report on the technology's adoption. Part of the money allotted for that could be set aside to help potential victims.
"The overall crash costs are going to go down," Anderson said. "How do you make sure that the amount that's saved goes in such a way to encourage efficient adoption?
One of the key issues is to make sure that the winners compensate the losers. Clearly there's going to be a lot of winners. Automakers may be in the loser category if they face increasing liability suits. Some form of straightening that out might make sense."
I'm a strong advocate of automated driving. I think it will be a boon to the economy in many ways. Mostly in the elimination of jobs and tasks that add no true value or wealth to the economy.
Autonomous Vehicles driving on rural roads/highways during whiteout winter conditions will be problematic.
I know it is fiction, but if you have seen iRobot, these robots will make decisions based on mathematical computations to decide who lives and who dies in a crash.
Who gets sued? Dumb, dumb question. A low information voter wrote the article.
Same as it is now, the Deep Pockets.
The one downside I see about automated cars is that at some point when the vast majority of cars are being automatically driven, the government may come in and make it illegal to drive manually. Those folks who still get a thrill out of driving their own cars might be shunted onto controlled tracks or poorly maintained side streets.
I disagree with the premise that the robot is automatically a better driver than I am. For instance, I slow down below the limit when I see kids more that a block away. I pay much less attention if the people are adults. I also prepare for evasive action at certain intersections just by reputation.
I think the really crazy stuff is going to occur when most cars are automated. The human drivers may begin to expect rational behavior and encountering another human driver may surprise them.
Says the FReeper with a suspiciously Cylon like name.
Everybody looks for an easy and consistent answer to "who pays," but the fact of the matter is, it's up to the jury to decide if the manufacturer is at fault.
I can picture people entering driverless cars that are WAY out of repair, or that have been tinkered with, or gone out in weather conditions that aren't safe (hurricane, tornado).
At the same time, the expectation of a person (and the jury) who does follow the manufacturer's instructions will expect the car to perform safely.
Pedestrians have the same risk, more or less, that they have today, except they'll sue the vehicle manufacturer instead of the driver.
Why? Depending on the sensors, they may be far better at sensing the road and other vehicles than a human in those conditions.
And if not, they will probably be programmed to slow down, pull over and not drive in those conditions, where humans often will endanger themselves and others.
Hopefully, remotely responsible for such a bad idea.
Knowing those roads based on peeps well removed from the locale is extremely problematic.
Sorry, I missed the word “anyone”.
One of the key issues is to make sure that the winners compensate the losers.
Oh, so there won’t BE winners, just median producer/consumers?
Well, first we have to find the car by using satellite pings.........
I despise the entire idea.
1. Distracted Driving (including texting)
3. Drunk Driving
4. Reckless Driving
6. Running Red Lights
7. Running Stop Signs
8. Teenage Drivers
9. Night Driving
10. Design Defects
11. Unsafe Lane Changes
12. Wrong-Way Driving
13. Improper Turns
15. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
18. Road Rage
20. Drowsy Driving
21. Tire Blowouts
23. Deadly Curves
24. Animal Crossings
25. Street Racing
Loose Objects in Cars
Police Car Chases
Of these 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,18,20 are human error and pretty much get eliminated.
The weather related items would remain, as well as potholes and tire blow-outs. But an automated driver would probably handle them more consistently and more safely than a human. That's 5,9,16,17,19,21,22.
That leaves design defects (These would presumably increase, since you have both hardware and software design defects to consider now.
Deadly curves (which an automated car would probably handle better than a human).
And animal crossings, which no doubt will still cause accidents, but an automated driver would always be alert for animals, and would react in a more consistent way.
computer crashes...car crashes.
what a inspiring thought
How do you get to your destination in a robotic car when you have no specific destination. Say for example when you’re out sightseeing, or looking through neighborhoods looking for a new house, or you want to go tootle around a new shopping center.
US 212 through Wyo. and Mont.
Probably you’d switch to manual mode and drive yourself.
The alternative would be to give a destination even if it’s only a block away.
Sue Google for inventing such a stupid thing!
Most cars have computers now. They don’t crash very often, but you’re car won’t run if they do.
If a computer shuts down while one’s hands are on the wheel...I would think one would be far more likely to be able to control a vehicle, than one would in a hands off situations.
It's not like Microsoft designs their operating system. These would be different computers controlling the driving functions, but I would think they would be selected for high reliability.
In 2012 Google claimed 300,000 miles accident free.
Well, from watching the commercials, it’s the asbestos companies or the drug companies or whoever makes those steel knees.
Firestone, for the jackasses who don’t put air in their tires and expected Google to do it for them.
This only accounts for the accidents which did happen, not the ones I avoided. (Think about that for a while!)
For instance, I swerved to avoid relatively flat obstructions in the road 3 times this week. Any one of them could have caused tire damage resulting in later tire failure. So for a driver who does not avoid rolling over small pointy objects in the street the incidence of tire failure will be higher than it is today.
“I disagree with the premise that the robot is automatically a better driver than I am. For instance, I slow down below the limit when I see kids more that a block away. I pay much less attention if the people are adults. I also prepare for evasive action at certain intersections just by reputation.”
It will probably not be a better driver than you in 100% of situations...just 99% or so.
From your examples, even the current-gen automated cars already have far better reaction time and situational awareness than do you. They have a much better chance of stopping in time if a kid darts out in front of the car, or of success if they need to take “evasive action”. They also don’t get distracted, tired or drunk.
To the main thesis of this article, “who gets sued” will be determined by the forensic video and data from the crash, collected by the autonomous car(s) involved. I think the only common cause of avoidable crashes will be equipment failure, which will likely be attributed to either a) insufficient maintenance, b) unusual failure (act of God, essentially) or c) manufacturer flaw. As far as personal liability, only (a) above should be an issue - so car maintenance will be even more important than it is now.
“If a computer shuts down while ones hands are on the wheel...I would think one would be far more likely to be able to control a vehicle, than one would in a hands off situations.”
Production autonomous cars will have to include some level of redundancy. One scheme would use two driving computers, with the second ready to take over if the first fails. Then the “maintenance needed NOW” light comes on.
I expect there will be different price points, with different levels of reliability and safety - just as with vehicles today.