Man vs. Machine: The New Era of Self-Driven Cars

Kelley/Uustal attorney Kimberly L. Wald has authored a new article recently published by Law360 entitled “ Man v. Machine: The New Era of Self-Driven Cars.” In the article, Ms. Wald raised important moral and legal questions about the dawn of the autonomous vehicle and what it will mean for drivers in the future. For instance, if a person is injured in a car accident involving a self-driving car, who can be held responsible in a claim? Can these vehicles in their autonomy absolve humans of all liability, or should the “driver” still be held accountable if their vehicle causes injury or death to another?

Additional questions are raised about the software used by these vehicles to avoid a collision. A driver in a typical vehicle may attempt to avoid a collision by momentarily breaking the law in a maneuver, for example by speeding up or swerving into the shoulder of the highway. While a human might be able to make these types of snap decisions, how would a driverless vehicle handle them? Can the machine be programmed to break the law?

Wald explains that these questions are beginning to get a lot of attention because there have already been at least 14 documented accidents between traditional cars and driverless cars. For example, a Nissan being run by Cruise Automation veered off course and crashed into a parked vehicle after the driver failed to manually correct the vehicle’s course quickly enough. This forces the question of whether the vehicle was to blame or the driver.

Wald goes on to explain how driverless vehicles are not only changing our roadways but changing our laws as well. Already, several states have enacted legislation to address some of the moral and legal issues being raised by these machines, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and Texas. Last November, a new bill was introduced that would require the government to make a report assessing the readiness of the Department of Transportation to address autonomous vehicle technology challenges publicly available.

While there may still be more questions than answers when it comes to autonomous vehicles, only time will tell how they will affect the safety of our roadways.

Learn more about Kimberly L. Wald on our website.

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