If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it
still make a noise? If no one is driving a car and the car crashes, is
anyone responsible for the damage? These two potentially maddening questions
are really not so different from each other. And as a result, many Americans
are concerned about the potential liability implications of allowing self-driving
vehicles to operate on the streets of America.
Self-driving vehicles are not completely autonomous. They require a motorist
to start them and to remain in the driver’s seat in case of emergency.
However, because the motorist in the driver’s seat is not technically
driving, it would be problematic to hold that individual accountable for
harm caused by a crash if the car itself was doing the driving.
Similarly, it might make sense to hold the vehicle manufacturer liable
for harm caused by a crash, although manufacturers would likely resist
embracing this kind of accountability. This becomes problematic particularly
because major car manufacturers employ hundreds or even thousands of attorneys
to insulate them from liability and the average American tends to have
difficulty affording even a single attorney to represent their case.
At present, few self-driving vehicles are on the road. However, if you
find yourself in an accident with one, consider contacting an attorney
and filing a report just as you would in any other circumstance. As this
area of law evolves, the approach motorists may need to take in the event
of an accident will likely need to evolve as well.
Source: Findlaw Injured, “What if I Am in a Car Accident With a Self-Driving Car?” Christopher Coble, May 12, 2015