Driverless cars?


I read driverless cars are coming to Utah. Really, who is responsible if there is an accident?

At first glance, we thought your question should be asked in a legal forum, not an academic one. After asking a few legal eagles, we found there are no major laws or court decisions on this subject to date. So, we think it is the perfect topic for academia, because it requires you to think.

Currently, there is a belief among legal experts that there is a seismic shift of liability from drivers to car manufactures and, even more complex, to software developers.

Truly, this is man vs. computer, in a legal battle. The decision may involve proving whether the human driver or the automated driving system would have acted the same. Automakers are quick to point out that 94 percent of accidents can be blamed on human error. However, that it not an endorsement for driverless cars. There are too many variables on the road for any computer software to evaluate.

Driverless auto makers have inadvertently produced a credible witness against themselves, notes a car accident lawyer. The onboard computer memory reports on its own performance. There is data stored in computer memory, prior to any accident.

Social momentum is heralding the advent of driverless autos. There would be a huge reduction in accidents caused by speeding. Experts predict if just 10 percent of the cars on the road were automated, that could result in an $18 billion annual savings to society.

Insiders believe this future benefit will force legislation to limit liability of auto and software makers. This liability shield can encourage development of driverless technology. In the 1950s, this happened in America when vaccines were first introduced. The risk is passed to society, in the name of progress.

You’re either the one that creates the automation or you’re getting automated, Tom Preston-Werner.

Written by John Regan, former Director of Sales, for equity research, and expert on risk analysis.


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