Who’s to Blame in Self-Driving Car Accidents?

Hands On a Steering Wheel of a CarTired of finding a parking spot during lunch time? Driving to the grocery store? Imagining your child driving impaired late at night? Consider that most Americans lose fifty-two minutes per day sitting in traffic.

Self-driving cars can take all of those worries away.

In a recent blog post by Google, two hundred self-driving cars will be on California’s roads starting this summer. The first set of prototypes will have manual controls for the drivers due to California’s recent law requirements.

The prototypes will only be able to drive 25 mph. According to Google, the cars use video cameras, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to navigate through traffic. The cars also contain a detailed map provided by GPS and manual navigation.

Google’s second set of prototypes will only have seats, seatbelts, space for your things, a start button, and a screen showing the car’s judgments. There will be no brake, accelerator, or steering wheel.

California law may be revised by the end of this year, allowing these fully self-driving cars on the road with required permits.

Self-driving cars could eliminate almost all of the thirty thousand car accident fatalities and millions of injuries caused by human-error accidents each year. It could also save more than 3 billion dollars in costs due to car accidents and traffic, according to the American Automobile Association.

There has only been one accident in a self-driving car, and it was caused by a Google driver. If numerous self-driving cars get on the road and get in a real accident, an important question to be answered is who will be held legally responsible.

Will it be the person in the vehicle? The manufacturer that created a faulty piece? Google’s laser technology that didn’t see an innocent bystander?

If a person is driving a vehicle that has parking assistance, it is the person’s fault—not the fault of the technology—if he or she hits another car or object. The legal standards may end up being similar for self-driving vehicles.

Today, only four states—California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada— allow self-driving vehicles on public roads. They require a licensed, sober driver that can be ready to manually drive at any time.

This new technology is moving fast, and legislatures need to play catch-up to revise and create bills under which self-driving cars can fit.

Companies such as Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Toyota, and Nissan are already working on self-driving technology as well. It is estimated that by 2025, over two hundred thousand self-driving cars will be driven around the world.

Photo Credit: Joybot via Compfight cc

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