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frankzappa

Policy implications : Liability

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Self-driving car liability is a developing area of law and policy that will determine who is liable when an automated car causes physical damage to persons, or breaks road rules. When automated cars shift the control of driving from humans to automated car technology, there may be a need for existing liability laws to evolve in order to fairly identify the parties responsible for damage and injury, and to address the potential for conflicts of interest between human occupants, system operator, insurers, and the public purse. Increases in the use of automated car technologies (e.g. advanced driver-assistance systems) may prompt incremental shifts in this responsibility for driving. It is claimed by proponents to have potential to affect the frequency of road accidents, although it is difficult to assess this claim in the absence of data from substantial actual use. If there was a dramatic improvement in safety, the operators may seek to project their liability for the remaining accidents onto others as part of their reward for the improvement. However, there is no obvious reason why they should escape liability if any such effects were found to be modest or nonexistent, since part of the purpose of such liability is to give an incentive to the party controlling something to do whatever is necessary to avoid it causing harm. Potential users may be reluctant to trust an operator if it seeks to pass its normal liability on to others.

In any case, a well-advised person who is not controlling a car at all (Level 5) would be understandably reluctant to accept liability for something out of their control. And when there is some degree of sharing control possible (Level 3 or 4), a well-advised person would be concerned that the vehicle might try to pass back control at the last seconds before an accident, to pass responsibility and liability back too, but in circumstances where the potential driver has no better prospects of avoiding the crash than the vehicle, since they have not necessarily been paying close attention, and if it is too hard for the very smart car it might be too hard for a human. Since operators, especially those familiar with trying to ignore existing legal obligations (under a motto like 'seek forgiveness, not permission'), such as Waymo or Uber, could be normally expected to try to avoid responsibility to the maximum degree possible, there is potential for attempt to let the operators evade being held liable for accidents while they are in control.

As higher levels of automation are commercially introduced (level 3 and 4), the insurance industry may see a greater proportion of commercial and product liability lines while personal automobile insurance shrinks.

wikipedia.org

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