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Who is liable when a driverless car gets into an accident?

We have previously discussed some of the developments in self-driving car technologies in this Detroit Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog. Although several semi-autonomous features are currently being tested in various marketplaces, including here in Michigan, engineering professionals are now saying that a completely autonomous car will not be available until 2025.

However, some of the semi-autonomous features that have been designed to prevent car accidents could be available in just a few years, according to a recent news report by The Detroit News. These features include video camera technologies and automatic steering that help vehicles stay in their lanes, recognize pedestrians and respond appropriately to traffic jams, among other things.

While having drivers turn over some of their responsibilities to the vehicles themselves is meant to keep drivers from making mistakes that result in collisions and injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is examining what may happen if the ever technologies fail.

For example, if a self-driving car is in a fatal car accident due to a technology failure, who can be held responsible?

NHTSA is currently working on a research project that may help it write regulations for driverless cars and those might answer questions about who would be responsible or liable for autonomous car accidents.

The administration hopes that the driverless cars will save thousands of lives, according to the Detroit News Tribune report. While that would certainly be a welcome development, it would be imperative for lawmakers to develop legislation to govern an autonomous driving revolution.

Source: The Detroit News, "Expert says self-driving cars won't arrive until 2025," Karl Henkel, April 16, 2013

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