Archives for October 28, 2015


Who Takes Responsibility In An Accident Involving Driverless Cars?

Barriers To Adoption Of Driverless Cars

Autonomous car adoption has faced several barriers such as costs, regulations and liability in case of an accident. Even though driverless cars are said to be safe, like all machines, we expect to have a few accidents. Usually, a human driver would take responsibility if he or she causes an accident. But, in the case of self-drive cars, no human drivers are involved, leaving people wondering who will be liable in case of an accident.

What Is The Landscape Like For Self-Drive Car Manufacturers?

Liability concerns have been predicted to be a major headache for driverless cars. Questions touching on methods to apportion blame between an automated car system and human driver have indicated how difficult and complicated such a legal issue could be. This has led to different views across the board.

In 2013, an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that according to some experts, if left unresolved, the issue of liability could delay or kill the vision of driverless vehicles set to dominate the markets in future. In a different article, MSN wrote about the possibility of lawsuits driving autonomous vehicles to extinction. The Wall Street Journal also weighed in on this matter, addressing the grievous issue of liability in the autonomous world.

Obviously, the case of liability could be a contentious issue. Fortunately, some car manufacturers have opted to take responsibility in case of an accident.

Who Will Accept Liability?

Mercedes and Google were the first two companies to announce that they will accept liability in the event their vehicles are involved in an accident.

On October 8 2015, Volvo became the third company to join the  liability  bandwagon. While addressing a seminar on autonomous vehicles, Volvo Car Group President and C.E.O, Håkan Samuelsson, indicated that regulations are currently the biggest hurdle in the adoption of this technology.

Will It Be Full Or Part Liability?

Although they were the latest to announce acceptance of liability, Volvo C.E.O was keen to point out that Volvo was the first car manufacturer to promise full liability in the event of an accident. He however cautioned that the company would only accept full liability only if the accident resulted from the car design, and not the user’s misuse of the technology. Additionally, Volvo would not accept responsibility in the event of a third-party influenced crash.

Will This Make A Difference?

Whilst this news may seemingly be exciting to a consumer, Prof Sandor Veres, director of autonomous systems at Sheffield University, thinks that manufacturers are not adding much value by accepting responsibility. According to his line of thinking, this move by manufacturers would only help streamline global legislation on autonomous vehicles.

Currently, only 3 self-drive vehicle manufacturers are willing to accept liability. Hopefully, the rest of the manufacturers such as Audi and Ford will follow suit, further encouraging consumers to invest in these cars. Additionally, as noted by these companies, the government should streamline a number of legal issues delaying release of driverless vehicles on the roads, to ensure a productive future.