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Robotic Cars and Personal Injury Law

  • Published: June 18, 2015

Self-Driving cars are one of the many pseudo-science-fiction devices that are more and more becoming a part of our everyday lives. While they may currently still be heavily regulated such that they only appear in a few states (California, Nevada, Florida, and Washington), this new technology is advancing and spreading quickly.

Mercedes, Tesla, and even Google have all been pushing forward with this new technology and Google is currently in prototype testing and hoping to release their cars for sale in 2020.

The incoming nature of this new technology cannot be denied and its existence brings up some interesting personal injury legal questions.

When the self driving car hits another vehicle who gets blamed? Is it the owner for not paying enough attention to hit the emergency stop button in time, or perhaps for not maintaining their vehicle correctly? Is it the manufacturer for incorrectly assembling some key component? Is it the original producer of the vehicle for faulty programming? Is there a point at which there is so much faith in the safety of these “smart cars” that any accident they are involved in must be the other party’s negligence?

What about if a car delivers its driver to an incorrect destination, perhaps a failed google map result for a hospital or a bad neighborhood resulting in damage to the car or its occupants. Is the car’s owner at fault? Is the programmer of the car?

The best laid plans of mice and men will never survive contact with the enemy, or in this case the real world. Google cars have not yet driven the total miles that it would statistically take to cause an accident. This opens up an interesting new area of law, that of robotics. The questions this expanding area brings up will have to be answered and will unfold precedents for future generations as they are.