Google's self-driving car project and the countless other autonomous automobiles popping up these days, despite their different programming, business plans and target users, all have one thing in common; legal ambiguity. Whether it's who is responsible for any mistakes the cars may make, where they are allowed to go, how autonomous they're allowed to be or whether they are legal in certain areas at all, a comprehensive legal framework to take care of issues arising from the rise of the self-driving car simply does not exist at this time. Thus, in order to safeguard themselves and aid in the creation of such a framework, Google has reportedly brought on The Climate Corporation's chief legal officer, Kevin Vosen, as well as an unnamed exec from the local transit authority of San Francisco.
Interestingly, The Climate Corporation is formed from former Googlers, meaning that in some way, Vosen has come full circle. The company has since been sold to Monsanto, but a remaining fondness for its origins is evident in this transfer. Vosen has his work cut out for him; a complex legal framework needs to spring up around self-driving cars, and it needs to spring up soon, or else manufacturers and tech companies could face serious disappointments and roadblocks as they race to get their robot roadsters out the door. Tesla, for example, is in the midst of just such a crisis; recently, not one, but two of their Model S units were involved in separate crashes while autonomous mode was allegedly engaged. Meanwhile, the DOT chairman has been calling for just such a framework, with input from both governments and the people behind self-driving vehicles.
For now, legal liability for the self-driving cars is an especially sticky issue for Google because the self-driving car project has yet to split off into a separate company under Alphabet, still retaining its status as a Google X project, answerable to Astro Teller and applicable Google and Alphabet higher-ups like Eric Schmidt and Larry Page. At this point, no timeline has been nailed down for exactly when the self-driving car unit will make the transition, or what kind of conditions need to be met before that can happen.