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Can a Robocar Be Sued?



Robocars are ready to hit the roads, but humans may be holding them back, according to a recent Axios report. In its report, Axios reveals an overwhelming number of accidents involving robocars were caused by humans, not the self-driving car technology.

Axios reviewed the incident reports filed with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles spanning from 2014-2018. Out of 62 accidents involving a robocar in autonomous mode, only one was caused by the self-driving vehicle. However, six of 26 accidents were caused by the self-driving car when it was under the control of a human, or in conventional mode. Furthermore, three of the reports involved humans attacking the robocar by hitting or climbing on top of them.

Testing on certain routes is one way the growing number of companies developing robocars tries to get around human error. “Regardless, it is clear that further testing is needed and the interplay between human involvement and self-driving technology poses legal questions as to liability,” stated Attorney Mary Alexander. While everyone awaits self-driving car perfection, accidents will continue to happen. In the meantime, many people are curious about who is liable for a robocar accident.

The manufacturer of the vehicle may be liable for defects causing the accident. Additionally, it is possible that even the developer of the robocar technology may be liable. Where self-driving cars are in conventional mode, or under the control of a human driver, the negligent conduct of the driver can give rise to liability. The driver’s employer may be subject to liability as well where, for example, the employer was negligent in its training process. Even further, human interaction with the self-driving technology poses even more questions as to who may be liable when a human driver is present in the car, but the car is in autonomous mode.

Human involvement or not, robocars do not seem to be a fad, especially considering over 55 companies have robocar testing permits in just the state of California. As technology, testing, and the overall presence of robocars progress, liability issues will continue to evolve as well.

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