AI News, Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Liability for Self-Driving Car Accidents

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Liability for Self-Driving Car Accidents

Volvo president Håkan Samuelsson caused a stir earlier this week when he said that Volvo would acceptfull liability whenever its cars are in autonomous mode.

“If we made a mistake in designing the brakes or writing the software, it is not reasonable to put the liability on the customer,” says Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader for safety and driver support technologies at Volvo.

Not at all, says John Villasenor, professor of electrical engineering and public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of a paper titled, “Products Liability and Driverless Cars.” According to Villasenor, “Existing liability frameworks are well positioned to address the questions that will arise with autonomous cars.” He told IEEE Spectrum that, “If an autonomous car causes an accident, then the manufacturer was already going to be squarely in the liability chain.” The University of Washington’s Technology Law and Policy Clinic agrees.

Ina submissionearlier this year to the Uniform Law Commission, a body that aims to standardize laws between U.S. states, the group said, “Product liability theories are highly developed, given the advance of technology in and out of cars for well over a century, and are capable of covering autonomous vehicles.” As cars have become increasingly automated, with antilock brakes, electronic stability control, crash prevention radars and lane-keeping assistance, legal precedents have naturally developed in step.

“There are grey areas, involving disputes regarding whether an accident was caused by a failure of autonomous technology, an error by the human driver, or some combination,” says Villasenor, “But these are not areas that [Volvo’s] pronouncement will resolve.

Volvo CEO: We will accept all liability when our cars are in autonomous mode

Two questions loom over automakers and tech companies as they push forward with the development and testing of self-driving cars: “Who is responsible?”

While the U.S. is currently the most progressive country in the world in autonomous driving, its position could be eroded if a national framework for regulation and testing is not developed, according to Samuelsson.

It would be a shame if the U.S. took a similar path to Europe in this crucial area.” Samuelsson urged regulators to work closely with car makers to solve controversial outstanding issues such as questions over legal liability in the event that a self-driving car is involved in a crash or hacked by a criminal third party.

Without a clear set of rules, automakers won’t be able to conduct credible tests to develop cars that meet the different guidelines of each of the 50 states, he added.

Audi’s current model cars don’t have a fully, or even highly autonomous mode, so taking a position now is a bit premature, according to spokesman Brad Stertz.

The company’s first highly automated system, which will will handle driving tasks in congested highway traffic up to 37 mph, will come out in the next generation A8 in the next few years.

Company spokesman Alan Hall says the company is focused on its own plan for autonomous vehicle development and will share details of its future plans at the appropriate time.

And Volvo, which was acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holding of China in 2010, unveiled an interface that will allow drivers to activate and deactivate the autonomous mode through specially-designed paddles on the steering wheel.

Volvo says it will take the blame if one of its self-driving cars crashes

Ahead of a speech to be delivered in DC by Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson on Thursday, the company has laid out its concerns about roadblocks to moving forward on self-driving tech in a press release.

Volvo says in its statement that it 'will accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode,' which is really, really big news — most of the conversation around autonomous liability has been in posing questions, not answering them, so having automakers take full responsibility could go a long way toward simplifying the rules of a self-driving road.

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Clearly, modified self-driving software — maliciously modified or otherwise — could post a threat to passengers and everyone around the vehicle, though there's an argument to be made that security researchers should be able to help vet the code to make sure it's safe from attacks.

Autonomous car liability

Autonomous car liability (or liability of driverless cars,[1] self-driving cars,[2] or robotic cars[3]) is a developing area of law and policy that will determine who is liable when an autonomous car causes harm to persons or property.[4] As autonomous cars shift the responsibility of driving from humans to autonomous car technology, there is a need for existing liability laws to evolve in order to fairly identify the appropriate remedies for damage and injury.[5] Increases in the use of autonomous car technologies (e.g.

There are three basic theories of tort liability: traditional negligence, no-fault liability and strict liability.[5] According to a National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, over 90% of the crashes (representing an estimated 2 million crashes nationwide) involved the driver as the critical reason of the crash.[8] Meanwhile, research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems, which are seen as stepping stones to get to Level 3 and 4 autonomy, have helped reduce accidents by employing forward collision warnings and automatic braking.[9] Given these trends, increased use of autonomous vehicle technology could reduce the number of accidents and prevent crash-related deaths.[10] Consequently, it is likely that cases of traditional negligence will fall and this will in turn reduce automobile-insurance costs.[5] With the onset of fully autonomous cars, it is possible that the need for specialized automobile insurance disappears and that health insurance and homeowner’s liability insurance instead cover automobile crashes, much in the same way that it covers bicycle accidents.[5] Moreover, as cases of traditional negligence decrease, no-fault insurance systems appear attractive given its benefits.[5] It would provide compensation to victims relatively quickly and the compensation would not depend on the identification of a party at-fault.

With autonomous cars, the plaintiff could make the argument that a different design, whether in the physical features of the vehicle or in the software that controls the movements of the vehicle, could have made the vehicle safer.[13] For plaintiffs, this creates a high burden of proof and also makes it difficult to find qualified experts.[11] In asking 'who do I sue,' a plaintiff in a traditional car crash would assign blame to the driver or the car manufacturer, depending on the cause of the crash.

In a crash involving an autonomous car, a plaintiff may have four options to pursue.[11] 1) Operator of the vehicle: in Florida and Nevada, an operator is defined as a person who causes the autonomous technology to engage, regardless of whether the person is physically in the vehicle.[14] California, on the other hand, specifies that an operator as “the person who is seated in the driver’s seat, or, if there is no person in the driver’s seat, causes the autonomous technology to engage.”[11] The viability of a claim against the operator will determine on the level of autonomy.

States such as Florida, however, are providing protection by limiting product liability for manufacturers.[14] 3) Company that created the finished autonomous car: Volvo is an example of a manufacturer who has pledged to take full responsibility for accidents caused by its self-driving technology.[15] 4) Company that created the autonomous car technology: Companies under this option could include those developing the software behind the autonomous car and those manufacturing the sensor systems that allow a vehicle to detect its surrounding.

While state court remedies may sometimes be inconsistent, the federal government should not put itself in the position of trying to formulate and impose a certain set of liability standards on the states.[18] Defining what choice an autonomous car must take in “the trolley problem” — no-win hypothetical situation where a person witnessing a runaway trolley could allow it to hit several people or divert it, killing someone else,&#160;has proven to be a reoccurring problem for lawmakers [19] &#160;In a recent statement for automobile manufacturers by the U.S. Department of Transportation, it is consigned to a footnote that says only that ethical considerations are 'important' and links to a brief acknowledgement that 'no consensus around acceptable ethical decision-making' has been reached.

For example, Metromile, an insurance provider start-up founded in 2011, has started to offer usage-based insurance for low-mileage drivers and designed a policy to complement the commercial coverage of Uber drivers.[30] In 2015, Volvo issued a press release claiming that Volvo would accept full liability whenever its cars in autonomous mode.[15] President and Chief Executive of Volvo Cars Håkan Samuelsson went further urging 'regulators to work closely with car makers to solve controversial outstanding issues such as questions over legal liability in the event that a self-driving car is involved in a crash or hacked by a criminal third party.'[15] In an IEEE article, the senior technical leader for safety and driver support technologies at Volvo echoed a similar sentiment saying, “if we made a mistake in designing the brakes or writing the software, it is not reasonable to put the liability on the customer...we say to the customer, you can spend time on something else, we take responsibility.”[31]

Volvo Accepts Liability For Crashes Of Its Self-Driving Cars

While the specifics of what the company will and won’t consider liable may become murkier once specific language is drafted, a promise of this scale is a major step step for self-driving cars in the legal and political eye.

On paper, that may sound a lot like school yard bravado, but as everyone from Uber to the elderly looks at adopting self-driving technology, one company has answered the biggest question: who’s in trouble when something goes wrong?

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Volvo XC90 Drive Me Autonomous (self-driving) car interface (IntelliSafe Autopilot)