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Who Gets Sued When Your Robot Car Crashes?
National Journal ^ | March 25, 2014 | Alex Brown

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 drivers—when the technology is ready—will 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 failure—and subsequent lawsuits—won'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."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government
KEYWORDS: autonomousvehicles; cars; robotics
Raises some interesting questions.

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.

Imagine:


1 posted on 03/25/2014 5:48:48 PM PDT by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN

Autonomous Vehicles driving on rural roads/highways during whiteout winter conditions will be problematic.


2 posted on 03/25/2014 5:52:23 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: Paladin2

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.


3 posted on 03/25/2014 5:57:16 PM PDT by Cyclone59 (Where are we going, and what's with the handbasket?)
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To: DannyTN

Who gets sued? Dumb, dumb question. A low information voter wrote the article.

Same as it is now, the Deep Pockets.


4 posted on 03/25/2014 5:58:19 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (Over production, one of the top 5 worries for the American Farmer every year.)
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To: DannyTN
I don't know if they go into it, but the driver will always be potentially partly at fault. The manufacturer will want to know if the driver has been properly maintaining the car, if the owner performed any illegal modifications, if the owner programmed the car to try and drive somewhere it wasn't designed to drive, e.g. trying to ride a family sedan off road.

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.

5 posted on 03/25/2014 5:58:26 PM PDT by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: DannyTN

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.


6 posted on 03/25/2014 5:58:54 PM PDT by the_Watchman
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To: Cyclone59

Says the FReeper with a suspiciously Cylon like name.


7 posted on 03/25/2014 5:58:59 PM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: DannyTN
The same liability dilemma is associated with other "lifesaving" technology advances, like airbags, crush zones, etc.

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.

8 posted on 03/25/2014 6:02:25 PM PDT by Cboldt
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To: Paladin2
"Autonomous Vehicles driving on rural roads/highways during whiteout winter conditions will be problematic."

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.

9 posted on 03/25/2014 6:04:55 PM PDT by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN

Hopefully, remotely responsible for such a bad idea.


10 posted on 03/25/2014 6:07:03 PM PDT by freedomfiter2 (Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil.)
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To: DannyTN

Knowing those roads based on peeps well removed from the locale is extremely problematic.


11 posted on 03/25/2014 6:07:03 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: freedomfiter2

Sorry, I missed the word “anyone”.


12 posted on 03/25/2014 6:08:33 PM PDT by freedomfiter2 (Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil.)
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To: DannyTN

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?

Liberals. Feh.


13 posted on 03/25/2014 6:12:35 PM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: DannyTN

Well, first we have to find the car by using satellite pings.........


14 posted on 03/25/2014 6:22:16 PM PDT by exit82 ("The Taliban is on the inside of the building" E. Nordstrom 10-10-12)
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To: DannyTN

I despise the entire idea.


15 posted on 03/25/2014 6:22:20 PM PDT by Nuc 1.1 (Nuc 1 Liberals aren't Patriots. Remember 1789!)
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To: the_Watchman
I got this list of top 25 auto crash causes from Law Offices of Michael Pines top 25 causes


1. Distracted Driving (including texting)
2. Speeding
3. Drunk Driving
4. Reckless Driving
5. Rain
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
14. Tailgating
15. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
16. Ice
17. Snow
18. Road Rage
19. Potholes
20. Drowsy Driving
21. Tire Blowouts
22. Fog
23. Deadly Curves
24. Animal Crossings
25. Street Racing
Honorable Mention
High Winds
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.

16 posted on 03/25/2014 6:22:25 PM PDT by DannyTN ( .)
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To: Paladin2

computer crashes...car crashes.

what a inspiring thought


17 posted on 03/25/2014 6:25:55 PM PDT by MeshugeMikey ( "Never, never, never give up". Winston Churchill)
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To: DannyTN

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.


18 posted on 03/25/2014 6:26:56 PM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: MeshugeMikey

US 212 through Wyo. and Mont.


19 posted on 03/25/2014 6:27:25 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: SoCal Pubbie

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.


20 posted on 03/25/2014 6:30:26 PM PDT by DannyTN ( .)
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To: DannyTN

Sue Google for inventing such a stupid thing!


21 posted on 03/25/2014 6:33:45 PM PDT by dalereed
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To: MeshugeMikey

Most cars have computers now. They don’t crash very often, but you’re car won’t run if they do.


22 posted on 03/25/2014 6:36:33 PM PDT by DannyTN ( .)
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To: DannyTN

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.


23 posted on 03/25/2014 6:41:16 PM PDT by MeshugeMikey ( "Never, never, never give up". Winston Churchill)
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To: MeshugeMikey
True, but auto computers rarely shut down.

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.

Google automated car

24 posted on 03/25/2014 6:57:11 PM PDT by DannyTN ( .)
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To: DannyTN

Well, from watching the commercials, it’s the asbestos companies or the drug companies or whoever makes those steel knees.


25 posted on 03/25/2014 7:30:40 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: DannyTN
Who gets sued> Bush of course! It's all his fault.
26 posted on 03/25/2014 8:02:18 PM PDT by Cheapskate (Play loud and carry BIG sticks!)
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To: DannyTN

Firestone, for the jackasses who don’t put air in their tires and expected Google to do it for them.


27 posted on 03/25/2014 8:42:40 PM PDT by TurboZamboni (Marx smelled bad and lived with his parents .)
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To: DannyTN

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.


28 posted on 03/25/2014 11:43:44 PM PDT by the_Watchman
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To: the_Watchman

“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.


29 posted on 03/26/2014 4:57:31 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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To: MeshugeMikey

“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.”

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.


30 posted on 03/26/2014 5:03:52 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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