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Transportation AI

Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes? 937

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the werecar-had-too-much-to-drink dept.
innocent_white_lamb writes "Current laws make the driver of a car responsible for any mayhem caused by that vehicle. But what happens when there is no driver? This article argues that the dream of a self-driving car is futile since the law requires that the driver is responsible for the operation of the vehicle. Therefore, even if a car is self-driving, you as the driver must stay alert and pay attention. No texting, no reading, no snoozing. So what's the point of a self-driving car if you can't relax or do something else while 'driving?'"
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Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

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  • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jythie (914043) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @01:53PM (#45908205)
    *nod* I could see the liability resting on your insurance carrier, then premiums being based off the model of car, version of software, or configuration.
  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @01:55PM (#45908227) Homepage

    Just from memory:

    Montreal Metro is driven by autopiloting with someone in the cab for door management.

    Vancouver Skyline doesn't even have a driver anywhere, it's all automated.

    Several airports (Orlando was the last one I went to), have automated trains/monorails to shuffle people between terminals.

    Most flights you take are done almost entirely on autopilot.

    So far, it seems that mass transit is increasingly automated. So why is non-mass transit any different?

  • by spinozaq (409589) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @01:58PM (#45908295)

    The change will happen slowly, organically, over time. A self driving car will behave statistically as a very safe driver. Ownership of a self driving car should bestow upon you lower insurance rates. If the current insurance companies balk at the idea, the private market will take over and "self driving only" insurance companies will gladly take their place. Eventually, as more and more share of vehicles are self driving the size of the insurance industry will shrink significantly.

    I see no reason to change the liability burden away from the "Driver". It may seem counter intuitive, but you are gaining economic advantage by using your self driving car. For that advantage, you accept the risks, and insure yourself against them. That said, operating a self driving car will/should carry significantly less risk and liability then driving yourself around does now.

    That does not mean that the car makers are off the hook. Just like today, if a vehicle mechanically malfunctions in a way that the car maker is found responsible, the insurance company may attempt to subrogate the claim to them.

  • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:08PM (#45908481) Homepage Journal

    Right. It needs to be strictly civil liability - the government could really hose this up if they attach criminal penalties.

    The computer industry has set a terrible precedent here, which I hope is stopped. That person running an unpatched XP in a botnet should be just as liable as the person riding in his car, for the damage his car does and for the damage his PC does. Kaspersky should be selling combination AV/Insurance packages.

    People wonder why linux doesn't catch on despite being so much more secure than Windows. One of the factors is that Windows doesn't have to be as good because liability is artificially limited by the government, and that's a direct subsidy. Absent that protection, either Windows would get better or it'd become too expensive to run.

  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crakbone (860662) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:10PM (#45908511)
    Actually I see the opposite. When I drive people around they talk, work on their phones, or make calls. They don't usually tell me to go faster. On an automatic car you would most likely see people start to do other more important things than worry about that .25 second advantage they would have if they cut off three cars.
  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by holmstar (1388267) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:50PM (#45909151)
    Self driving cars could also form trains, driving only a few feet apart, thereby greatly reducing wind resistance. A car train might be able to get the same fuel economy at 85 mph as a single car would achieve at 50.
  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcw3 (649211) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @03:03PM (#45909311) Journal

    An exception are back doors with stupid-child protection engaged

    Okay, I'm somewhat off-topic, but I've gotta ask what you have against this? I've personally had the experience of a former GF's 4 yr old opening a back door while I was cruising down the road.

  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 09, 2014 @03:24PM (#45909605)

    Disclaimer: i drive manual transmission too, but for none of the reasons you mention. My reasons are: a) simpler/more robust design (i.e. one less part which can fail fail), b) more control, c) avoid ridicule

    In the US, I like having a manual transmission because it means no one wants to borrow my car.

  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @03:44PM (#45909869)

    If a self-driving car can't avoid an impending incident there is no way I will believe a human could.

    We're headed down the freeway. Up ahead I see some teenagers standing on an overpass holding something large and watching cars pass underneath. I recognize a potential dropped rock and change lanes to get away from it. Will the computer do that?

    I'm almost home. I see the neighbor kid playing basketball in his driveway. He shoots. He misses. I know as soon as he misses that there is a good chance the ball will roll out into the street, and knowing how oblivious the neighbor kid is I can expect him to follow. Will the computer know this? In fact, I see the kid running towards the street, but he is hidden behind a parked van and will not actually be visible in the street until he's in the street directly in front of me. Will the car track him all the way from the upper end of his driveway?

    I'm passing an intersection and there are two people standing on the corner. They are in a position where they might step into the crosswalk. Can the computer read those people's body language to predict that they will or won't step off the sidewalk in front of me?

    There are any number of fuzzy logic problems that the computer will never be better at solving as fast and correctly as a human is, simply because the data will be missing. Everyone who claims that the new robotic car overlords will be better and safer at doing everything for us are hopelessly naive.

    Any accidents that occur with self-driving cars, initially, I'm sure will be because of human drivers not doing what they should be doing.

    Even if the self-driving cars have accidents it will be because the humans, who are not doing anything have done it wrong. And the NTSB is correct for their blanket finding of "pilot error" on every airplane crash, right?

    like a piano falling out of the sky landing directly on a car in traffic.

    Yes, when I drive, that's exactly what I fear most. And based on your claims that a human couldn't keep an eye on a helicopter with a piano dangling on a thin wire underneath but a computer could ("If a self-driving car can't avoid an impending incident there is no way I will believe a human could") I for one welcome my new robotic masters.

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan