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Ethics and Liability Issues Involving Driverless Cars

Ethics and Liability Issues Involving Driverless Cars

As tech companies and automakers continue to roll out driverless vehicles, it appears that having these robot cars on our streets is not the stuff of sci-fi movies any more. It could soon be a reality, but as that reality looms large, the practical challenges involving these vehicles are coming to the forefront. We are talking here about fully driverless cars, not the semi-autonomous vehicles such as those made by Tesla that still require a human driver to be in control of the vehicle.

Who is Liable for an Accident?

With semi-autonomous vehicles when an accident occurs, it is most likely the fault of the human driver. In such cases, liability is clear, but when a driverless car is designed to clearly follow the rules of road, can such a vehicle be shown at fault? If this vehicle is at fault, does it mean the system (hardware or software programming) is faulty, and in such cases, does the liability for a car accident lie with the car’s owner, the automaker or the company that designed the system? Volvo has entirely circumvented this problem by saying they will accept full liability for their driverless cars.

Other Issues with Driverless Cars

Yet another issue with driverless cars is an ethical one. Essentially, the challenge is one where a driverless car, in the absence of human control, must decide whom to kill in an extreme situation. Presented with such a challenge, would the driverless vehicle strike a pedestrian, a group of people or crash the car and injure/kill the passenger in the vehicle. Some car makers have held that the car’s prime duty is protect the passenger in the vehicle rather than pedestrians or others on the roadway.

The risk of hacking can also be an issue with driverless cars. Automakers and tech companies are still working intensely to secure the vehicles against an external hacker who can reprogram the vehicle and cause a crash remotely. We are watching the evolution of regulations relating to driverless cars closely. Our California car accident attorneys believe that driverless cars should not be on our roadways unless these critical issues are ironed out. Consumers should not be used as guinea pigs to test out these vehicles.

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