"Brave New World: Liability in Autonomous Vehicle Age"

Industry Today

Lucy Aquino authored an article for Industry Today detailing the future of tort liability in the autonomous vehicle industry.

“The challenges posed by this burgeoning technology involve areas such as intellectual property, privacy, online security and, as can be expected, tort liability,” Aquino said. “Can we – better yet, should we – apply current tort liability principles to motor vehicles operated, wholly or partially, by autonomous systems? If so, who should be held liable when technology fails or when an accident occurs?”

The autonomous vehicles currently available require some level of human supervision, which means a driver is required to remain alert and take control in case of an unforeseen event to which the vehicle is not designed to respond. While it may be easy to assume that a human driver would remain liable in case of an accident with this technology, some auto manufacturers have recently learned they may be held liable if they design a vehicle that fails to verify whether its human driver is still paying attention. “In order to avoid potential liability, automobile manufacturers must find a balance between providing drivers with helpful and appealing assistive technologies and ensuring those same drivers understand they must remain vigilant behind the wheel,” Aquino said.

Another liability issue to consider is the lengthy transition period during which autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles will share the road. A major safety feature of autonomous vehicles involves the ability to communicate with one another and surrounding infrastructure, such as traffic lights, to make communal driving decisions. This creates obvious issues as non-autonomous vehicles are unable to communicate, meaning fully autonomous vehicles will be required to anticipate and respond to human drivers and inevitable human error. “If an autonomous vehicle operates exactly as intended but fails to anticipate and respond to an error on the part of another vehicle’s human driver, is the automobile manufacturer liable for not using the proper machine learning algorithms when developing the autonomous vehicle?” Aquino questioned. The answer won’t be known for some time.

For the full article, please click here.

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