The Driverless Vehicle

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Google has been testing its driverless vehicles on the road, especially in Texas where the conglomerate’s testing has been welcomed with open arms. The vehicle is extremely autonomous; in fact, it makes judgments on turning and speed based on the relative distance and speed of other cars. Experts argue that the driverless car could potentially save thousands of lives, as the calculative nature of the vehicle could prove to be more accurate than human-based vehicles. However, car accidents have still occurred (though few, far and in between). The question remains: what happens when the first driverless car is involved in a traffic car accident that results in a death?

The First Car Accident Caused by a Driverless Vehicle

A couple weeks ago, the Google driverless car caused its first car accident when it decided to slowly merge into a bus. The damage was minor; but the incident was significant, since all accidents until now had been due to another vehicle crashing into the driverless car. Statistically, the Google car was doing great; however, the incident made it so that the court had to decide on the liability of a driverless car. Would the liability fall to the passenger in the vehicle or the manufacturer of the platform (in this case, Google) as the liable party? The court decided that the software is considered to be just as liable as a human driver. In essence, this holds Google to be responsible for the car accident. This, in turn, opens up a whole plethora of other questions like, “Will the software need to pass an exam to drive on the road?” and “How enforceable is punishment against a large corporation like Google? For instance, who goes to jail?” Obviously, it would be ludicrous to put a software in a jail cell, but the big question is this: “Who will physically go to jail in the instance of a car accident?” If the driver of the car has been drinking, making the situation a DWI car accident, this brings in another element of complexity.

What Happens with Liability?

In short, Google is the software designer, but victims of driverless vehicle accidents will be able to sue the vehicle manufacturer for putting a product on the road that did not work as it should have. Car manufacturers have a standard that they must abide by when they create vehicles; without this standard, it would become incredibly dangerous to be on the road, as all cars would have a different level of safety. In other words, the safest car in the world would be at the mercy of the most dangerous car in cautionary detail.

How Will Insurance Change?

Your insurance coverage will change for sure. However, experts argue about what details will be scrutinized in order to provide the correct coverage for a car accident involving a driverless vehicle. Because the idea is so novel, experts are conflicted on the best means to provide protection to the drivers as well as find balance for the companies that put the driverless vehicles on the road. Furthermore, Google cars are designed so that drivers cannot override the system. Google views human drivers as potential distractions to the calculated movements of the driverless vehicle and, as a result, made it so that Google cars remain completely autonomous.

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