It may sound like science fiction, but self-driving cars are a growing technology with investors and engineers around the world studying their potential. Auto dealers have unveiled driver-less automobiles at car shows, and some communities are already planning out how they will graft in the new machines.
But with the car's popularity on the rise, an obvious question remains: who's to blame when one of these vehicles gets in a car accident?
Normally, after a car accident the insurance companies and attorneys determine which driver was at fault and negotiate a settlement. In rare but severe cases, the manufacturer might be at fault and held liable for a defective product.
But when there's no driver, blame becomes a bit more complicated as passengers struggle to cover the cost of their injuries.
Arizona lawmakers are now among a few states considering guidelines, which have to take into account a full range of possibilities:
- The driver is to blame, because he or she could and should have taken control of the wheel when something went wrong.
- The car's manufacturer is to blame, for creating a product that malfunctioned on the road.
- The technology, and thus its creators, are to blame for building a system that wasn't safe.
- The city is to blame for not properly preparing or maintaining the roads to suit driver-less vehicles.
- The mechanic is to blame for damaging the system while working on the car.
All of these are possibilities that have to be considered when discussing laws about this new type of transport.
Fortunately, we have time to solve these problems, as the technology is still being developed. We're years away from getting to work with the push of a button, but once that day comes, liability will be a major legal issue to watch.