Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Transportation AI

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

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?'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

Comments Filter:
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @01:53PM (#45908193) Homepage

    The manufacturer will have an EULA which absolves them from guilt.

    It won't be the people who sold it, because they'll also have a contract term which says they are absolved from guilt.

    So, it will come down to the owner, who will be entirely dependent on the quality of the product, as delivered by two entities who have already said "not us".

    So, if you privately buy an autonomous car, and it crashes, you will likely be on the hook for it. If you merely hire them (as in a Taxi), then I'm sure the people who rent them will also absolve themselves from guilt in some strange way -- likely through arms length 3rd parties who do the actual operation.

    This won't be so much "buyer beware" as "everyone else on the roadway beware", because you'll have a vehicle driving around that if it crashes, there's a long line of people who have already made sure their asses are covered.

    The lawyers for the companies making and selling these will have covered their asses before it ends up in the hands of anybody else.

  • Re:Boring Drive (Score:5, Informative)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:02PM (#45908385)

    Cars should have a failsafe option when faced with a decision in dangerous circumstances. Something like "pull the fuck off the road without hitting shit then ask what to do". Sure, even a failsafe option can't account for everything, but it will probably still do a better job than your average human driver - alert or not.

    If we always waited until 100% of the issues are ironed out, then we still wouldn't even be using fire. Personally, once machine drivers are statistically safer than human drivers, I'm all for adopting them as our vehicular overlords.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:05PM (#45908433) Homepage

    Except, being on rails provides distinct advantages in terms of things being on auto-pilot.

    There's far fewer degrees of freedom in terms of what can happen, because, well, you're on frigging rails.

    You need to monitor your speed and your braking, but the turning is enforced by the rails unless you're going way too fast.

    So why is non-mass transit any different?

    Because cars aren't on rails?

    Planes are slightly different, because you can bet that the pilot is still ultimately responsible for the aircraft, and if it crashes due to pilot error, he's going to be the one hung out to dry. (Other than that, we mostly just hope/trust that pilots are professional, qualified, and able to do the job at hand)

  • Re:Boring Drive (Score:4, Informative)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @02:22PM (#45908701)

    Tailgating, speeding, failure to signal, etc are all behaviors that the current generation of self-driving car can already account for using the same tactics that a sane human driver would use. Back in August 2012, Google's team announced that they had passed the 300,000 autonomous mile mark on public roads. Accident-free.

  • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Informative)

    by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @03:09PM (#45909405)
    You jest, but you're talking about a real thing called reinsurance [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:4, Informative)

    by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @03:48PM (#45909931)

    How is it efficient if you drive as fast as possible? Fuel mileage decreases once you hit about 50 mph. After that you're driving your costs higher.

    A report showing the effect [nbcnews.com] and a chart [fueleconomy.gov] which gives a graphical representation of this effect.

    Time is money, friend.

  • Re:Efficiency. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Endophage ( 1685212 ) on Thursday January 09, 2014 @04:02PM (#45910119) Homepage
    Top gear did a good episode demonstrating fuel efficiency where they put something like a Ford Focus (some small "economical" hatchback) up against a BMW M3 on their track. The requirement was the Focus had to race the track, the M3 just had to keep pace, whoever drove the greater distance on a single gallon of fuel won. The M3 thrashed the Focus.

    The Focus at 75mph (typical motorway speed in the UK) is running at a much higher RPM (probably 4000+RPM, I can't say for sure but my old Peugeot 306 ran about that) than the M3, which is practically idling at that speed. It's part gearing, if you gave those hatchbacks an extra top gear they could get great efficiency at real motorway speeds. It's also horsepower. If you generate more HP per revolution, you don't need so many revolutions to maintain a speed. Obviously there's a balance as increasing HP typically means decreasing MPG.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman