Burlingame, CA Personal Injury Blog

Friday, January 9, 2015

Automated Cars - Who is responsible?

 Car Accident Lawyers Helping Accident and Injury Victims in San Francisco Bay and Burlingame

The attorneys at Shapiro Legal Group have literally represented victims in well over a thousand automobile collisions throughout the Bay Area as well as other parts of California and even other states.  Most are caused by one reason, bad driving.  But the number of excuses is seemingly endless.  Sun glare, noisy kids, construction, poor signage, cell phones, rain, radios, even pets have all been blamed by distracted drivers who look everywhere but in the mirror for the cause.  Just when you think you have heard it all, in the not too distant future the victim of an automobile collision will hear a new one: "I didn't do it, my car did."  Rapid advances in technology are bringing us closer to automated driverless cars.  In fact the biggest hurdle to bringing these vehicles to the consumer market may not be the technological challenges at all.  It may be the law and specifically issues of liability.

Suppose a driverless car makes a wrong turn and causes an accident.  Who is legally responsible?  Is it the driver?  Is it the manufacturer?  The answers to these questions may very well determine whether society shifts to automated vehicles or not.  There is no perfect solution.

Automated cars will not eliminate collisions.  The more important question will be whether driverless cars are safer, i.e. will there be fewer collisions than with human drivers.  But if manufacturers are going to be civilly liable for every accident, or even dragged into every case involving an auto accident caused by driving error, it will be very difficult to survive economically.  The risk is much easier spread if each driver, with insurance of course, were legally responsible for the driving actions taken by their vehicle.  This would treat people the same whether they drove their vehicles or not.  This would be a form of strict liability, legal responsibility without negligent action.  But this could allow auto manufacturers to avoid responsibility for defects in their automated systems.  Also this would move us away from a system of responsibility based on negligence.  After all, one human driver drove badly while another was sitting in the car doing a crossword puzzle.  These questions will have to be answered and their answers may change not only the way we drive, or don't drive.  The answers may change the way we buy insurance and allocate legal responsibility.  

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