For several years, Google has been working on a self-driving car that could become the vehicle of the future. The concept car is currently being tested in several states where the operation of autonomous motor vehicles is permitted.
In 2014, Google presented a new prototype of their driverless car that had neither steering wheel nor pedals. Additional news indicates that the self-driving cars may be programmed to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. Testing found that when surrounding vehicles were breaking the speed limit, going more slowly could actually be dangerous.
Although these advancements are exciting, some are wondering just how driverless cars will change the legal system.
The majority of auto accidents are caused by human error, so who will be held liable if an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash? Will it be Google? The vehicle owner? The other driver?
Google’s algorithm drives the car and the sensors and control system are all Google products. If the vehicle malfunctions, should Google be left to cover the costs of the collision? Additionally, if the vehicle is being driven erratically or over the speed limit, who should receive the ticket from law enforcement?
Currently, if a vehicle or vehicle part is defective and this defect leads to an accident, the manufacturer may be held liable. If a person is at-fault for an accident, they may be held liable and could be sued by the victim.
In a driverless vehicle, the passenger may not have access to immediately control how the vehicle maneuvers. Google has not specified whether or not they will include an override system, however, what will happen if the vehicle has no steering wheel or pedals to control?
Another concern is that drivers will become even more distracted when they are not driving the vehicle, which could cause a problem if the system needs to be overridden during emergencies.
Finally, although there have not been reports of such incidents, a vehicle that runs entirely on computers could be attacked or taken over by hackers. If someone else takes control of an autonomous vehicle, should the hacker be held liable if an accident occurs?
There are still many questions that need to be answered and laws that need to be clarified before self-driving vehicles hit the road. One positive outcome of self-driving cars though is the ability to reduce the number of car collisions reported each year.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto accident, an experienced car accident attorney at O’Connor, Acciani & Levy can help.