As the presence of self-driving vehicles increases on the roads, if only for testing purposes, the question of whether or not the technology is possible to achieve has been answered. However, now that we have the beginning stages of the technology in place, the reality of the autonomous car’s future is starting to bring up new issues. One of these unanswered questions has been, regarding theoretical situations, who’s to blame if something goes wrong?
Google Inc.’s self-driving cars have pioneered this new form of transportation, as have vehicles from traditional auto manufacturers. The emerging industry’s initial results have been remarkable. Tech giant Google has its cars driving around California, and although there have been minor incidents, such as the driverless cars being rear-ended, never have the autonomous cars been directly responsible. As cars from Volvo, Mercedes, and Google improve, it is expected that the rate of any sort of accident will decline significantly. Even so, the fact of the matter is accidents may never disappear entirely. Computer glitches occur at times for no visible reason, and there’s no indication that this will be an impossibility for self-driving vehicles.
The legal implications in a case involving a driverless car are unclear. The federal government has, so far, not said anything regarding the appropriate protocol or potential liability. At this point in the life of autonomous cars, it is difficult to determine how often accidents would be the fault of the robot driver. Even so, when it happens, someone needs to take the blame, as these are driverless vehicles, meaning there’s no driver to take a hit.
As a result, self-driving car manufacturers have seen the inevitable outcome and found that they would most likely be the ones held responsible in the occurrence of a glitch or some other unpredictable tragedy. These companies have made a decision to accept the outcome and handle it now before the issue gets out of hand. In a report from 60 Minutes, both Google and Mercedes revealed their intentions to “accept responsibility and liability.” Volvo, too, has responded similarly, saying the company will “accept full liability whenever one of its cars is in autonomous mode.” The car maker then added, “Volvo regards the hacking of a car as a criminal offense.” These statements demonstrate not only a reassuring confidence these companies have in their driverless cars but also the substantial amount of forethought they’ve put into their projects.
In a future where almost certainly most cars will be self-driving, it’s nothing but positive to see companies willing to back what they bring to the table 100%.